Big US Banks Make Laughable Excuses for Preserving Failed Universal Bank Model

In today’s lead story at the Financial Times, Big US banks defy calls that they should be broken up, American megabanks make clear that they don’t think much of the financial savvy of investors or the business press. In quarterly earning calls, bank analysts were pressing executives on the news reports that former Goldman exec, now director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn told senators last week told a group of senators that he was in favor of Glass-Steagall break-up-the-banks style legislation.

Our comments:

Wake me up when this gets serious. Cohn made it clear that he supported a breakup bill. While Trump has also said he wanted to revive Glass-Steagall, he didn’t say that very often on the campaign trail and there are many things he did say often and pretty consistently, like questioning why the US is carrying so much of the cost of NATO, he’s either reversed himself or is now backing a weak-tea version that his base regards as a sellout, such as Trump’s promises about NAFTA. Plus any Glass-Steagall type bill gets passed only over rabid anti-regulation House Financial Services committee chairman Jeb Hensarling’s dead body.

Don’t buy Jamie Dimon’s Brooklyn Bridge. Big complicated banks are not good for investors, no matter how much banks put their hands on their hearts and try to convince you otherwise. Here was the argument, per the pink paper:

The biggest banks in America are defying calls to break themselves up, arguing that the benefits of size and diversity were on display during a very mixed set of first-quarter results.

At JPMorgan Chase, finance chief Marianne Lake said on Thursday that the bank’s universal model was a “source of strength” for the broader economy, as she unveiled a 20 per cent drop in quarterly profits from consumer banking.

In the investment-banking part of the business, however, profits were up 64 per cent from a bleak period a year ago, boosted by a surge in bond trading and plenty of sales of debt and equity by big companies.

Anyone with proper finance training can tell you this is nonsense. Investors should be making portfolio diversification choices, not corporate execs asserting “synergy” on their behalf. Investors love earnings streams that are not much or better yet negatively correlated with the stock market; that’s one of the reasons they were willing to pay hedgies their inflated management and carry fees. Hedge funds promised returns that didn’t synch with stock market averages. When that proved to be less and less true and the results weren’t so hot generally, investors started beating a major retreat from the strategy.

If banks have all sorts of interesting return profiles hidden away in their various business lines, it would be much better in terms of the overall returns for investors owning those stocks to break them up.1

However, big complicated banks are good for securities analysts, since the complexity gives them more to do and thus creates the appearance that they are adding value to investors. So don’t expect any critical scrutiny of this bank PR from them.

The idea that bigger banks are better is a flat-out canard that we’ve debunked regularly since the inception of this site. Suffice it to say that every study ever done of US banks shows that they have a slightly negative cost curve once a certain asset size threshold is passed. Translation: bigger banks are actually have higher expenses per dollar of bank assets than smaller banks.

Now you might say, “But what about those bank mergers where they fire lots of people! Doesn’t that prove bank consolidation saves costs?”

No. The cost curve issue means the banks that were combined could have gotten those expenses lowered all on their own, and maybe some more. However, mergers provide an excuse to do what managements normally are too nice or too lazy to do, which is get ruthless about headcount.

Finally, the one real synergy is one that is dangerous to the public: the use of bank deposits to fund derivatives. Yes, Virginia, a whole lot of derivatives are booked in bank depositaries. For instance, to a bit of outcry, in 2011, Bank of America moved derivatives from Merrill Lynch into Bank of America NA. And why was that? The banking subsidiary had a better credit rating, meaning lower costs, because that’s where the deposits sat. As we wrote at the time:

Even though I’ve expressed my doubts as to whether Dodd Frank resolutions will work, dumping derivatives into depositaries pretty much guarantees a Dodd Frank resolution will fail. Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. So this move amounts to a direct transfer from derivatives counterparties of Merrill to the taxpayer, via the FDIC, which would have to make depositors whole after derivatives counterparties grabbed collateral. It’s well nigh impossible to have an orderly wind down in this scenario. You have a derivatives counterparty land grab and an abrupt insolvency. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors. No Congressman would dare vote against that.

And in case you think I’m exaggerating, the FDIC objected to the move, but the Fed took the position that it would “give relief” to the bank holding company. Bank of America took the position it has the authority to make this move, and since JP Morgan then had 99% of the notional value of its $79 trillion of derivatives booked in its depositary, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, there was ample precedent. 2

And as we’ve also written regularly, over the counter derivatives are the biggest source of interconnected among too-big-too-fail banks. So getting derivatives out of depositaries would shrink the derivatives market by making them more costly and reduce systemic risk.

Keep your eye on the ball of the real reason for bankers wanting ginormous banks: executive pay. Bank CEO and C-suite pay is a function of bank size and complexity. Simpler, smaller banks mean much less egregiously paid top brass.

Thus bear in mind the incentives for banks to bulk up: The bank that buys another bank gets to pay everyone at the top more, and the execs of the gobbled-up bank get huge consolation prizes. And all sorts of other people are feeding at the trough too: merger & acquisition professionals, lawyers, accountants, and all sorts of consultants and integration specialists. Our reader Clive will probably tell you the folks that have it the worst who still stay on the payroll are the people in IT.

Fortunately, even without all understanding the sordid details, the great unwashed public understands that overly large banks are hard to unwind and will therefore always be propped up, and separately exercise too much political power. But whether popular support will ever become important to Trump is very much in doubt.

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1 Absent, of course, breakup costs, but don’t expect banks to give you an honest idea about that if the threat starts looking more serious.

2 Yes, most of these are plain vanilla swaps. But still, no subsidy of this sort is warranted. Taxpayers should not be backstopping capital markets activities.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/big-us-banks-make-laughable-excuses-for-preserving-failed-universal-bank-model.html

ELIZABETH WARREN AND JOHN MCCAIN TEAM UP TO REIGN IN BANKS

Go to www.msnbc.com. CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN. LET THEM KNOW THEY ALREADY HAVE YOUR SUPPORT FOR THIS LAW AND THAT THEY DON’T NEED TO SELL THEMSELVES TO GET SUPPORT FROM THEIR CONSTITUENCY.

MSNBC had a segment today in which they interviewed Elizabeth Warren about a new set of laws reinstating the old style of Chinese walls. There are probably similar interviews on other channels with Senator Warren or Senator McCain and others. Just go to your favorite news channel and look it up. Their approach has bi partisan support because of its simplicity and its history. Historically it is merely a tune-up of the old laws to include definitions of new financial products that did not exist and were not adequately considered in the 1930’s when EVERYONE AGREED THE RESTRICTIONS WERE NEEDED.

Bottom Line: RETURN TO THE BORING BANK SAFETY WITHOUT BOOMS AND BUSTS FROM 1930’s into the 1990’s: leading republicans and democrats are stepping out of gridlock into agreement. They want to stop Wall Street from access to checking and savings accounts for use in high risk investment banking because that is what brought us to the brink and some say brought us Into the abyss. And it would stop commercial banks that are depository institutions for your checking and savings accounts from using your money on deposit in ways where there is a substantial risk of loss that would require FDIC ((taxpayer) intervention.

Banking should be boring. In the years when restrictions were in place we only had one serious breach of banking practices — the S&L Scandal in the 1980’s. But it didn’t threaten the viability of our entire economy and more than 800 people were serving prison terms when the dust cleared. Of course Bankers saw prison terms as an invasion of their business practices and regulation as unnecessary.

But the simple reason for bipartisan support is that the public is enraged that the mega banks (too big to fail) have GROWN 30% SINCE THE 2007-2008 while the people on Main Street are losing jobs, homes, businesses, families (divorce), thus stifling an already grievously injured economy because credit and cash are now scarce — unless you are a mega bank that made hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars because they were able to create an illusion (securitization) and at the same time, knowing it was an illusion, they bet heavily using extreme leverage on the illusion being popped.

They made it so complex as to be intimidating to even bank regulators. So no wonder borrowers could not realize or even contemplate that their mortgage was not a perfected lien, so they admitted it. Foreclosure defense attorneys made the same mistake and added to it by admitting the default without knowing who had paid what money that should have been allocated to the loan receivable account of the borrower that was supposedly converted for a note receivable from the borrower to a bond receivable from an asset pool that supposedly owned the note receivable account.

The complexity made it challenging to enforce regulations and laws. The complexity was hidden behind curtains for reasons of “privacy”. The real reason is that as long as bankers know they are acting behind a curtain, they are subject to moral hazard. In this case it erupted into the largest PONZI scheme in human history.

And the proof of that just beginning to come out in the courts as judges are confronted with an absurd position — where the banks “foreclosing” on homes and businesses want delays and the borrower wants to move the case alone; and where those same banks want a resolution (FORECLOSURE OR BUST) that ALWAYS yields the least possible mitigation damages, the least coverage for the alleged loss on the note because they would be liable for all the money they made on the bond. Just yesterday I was in Court asking for expedited discovery and the Judge’s demeanor changed visibly when the Plaintiff seeking Foreclosure refused to agree to such terms. The Judge wanted to know why the defendant borrower wanted to speed the case up while the Plaintiff bank wanted to slow it down.

And because of all the multiple sales, the insurance funds, the proceeds of credit default swaps, because the initial money funding mortgages came from depositors (“investors”), and all the money from the Federal Reserve who is still paying off these bond receivables 100 cents to the dollar — all that money amounting to far more than the loans to borrowers — because it related to the bond receivable, the banks think they can withhold allocation of that money to the receivable until after foreclosure and avoid refunding all the excess payments to the borrower the investor and everyone else who paid money in this scheme. And the system is letting them because it is difficult to distinguish between the note receivable and the bond receivable and the asset pool that issued the bond to the actual lender/depositor.

Senators Warren and McCain and others want to put an end to even the illusion that such an argument would even be entertained. Support them now if not for yourselves then for your children and grandchildren.

The Goal is Foreclosures and the Public, the Government and the Courts Be Damned

13 Questions Before You Can Foreclose

foreclosure_standards_42013 — this one works for sure

If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our South Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. In Northern Florida and the Panhandle call 850-765-1236. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.

SEE ALSO: http://WWW.LIVINGLIES-STORE.COM

The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available TO PROVIDE ACTIVE LITIGATION SUPPORT to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Danielle Kelley, Esq. is a partner in the firm of Garfield, Gwaltney, Kelley and White (GGKW) in Tallahassee, Florida 850-765-1236

EDITOR’S NOTE: SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO SHOW YOUR EXASPERATION. Danielle was at a hearing recently where all she wanted was to enforce a permanent modification for which her client had already been approved by Bank of America and BOA was trying to get out of it and pursue foreclosure even though the deal was done and there was no good or valid business reason why they would oppose a modification they already approved — except that they want to lure people into defaults and foreclosure to avoid liability for buy-backs, insurance, and credit default swap proceeds they received.

They need the foreclosure because that is the stamp of approval that the loans were valid and the securitization wasn’t a sham. Without the foreclosure, they stand to lose not only a lot of money in paybacks, but their very existence. Right now they are carrying assets that are fictitious and they are not reporting liabilities that are very real. At the end of the day, the public will see and even government officials whose “Services” have been purchased by the banks will not be able to deny that the nation’s top banks are broke and are neither too big to fail nor too big to jail. When that happens, our economy will start to recover ans the flow of credit and funds resumes and the banks’ stranglehold on government and on our society will end, at least until the next time.

THIS IS WHAT DANIELLE KELLEY WROTE TO ME AFTER THE HEARING:

 At the hearing against BOA on an old case of mine and Bill’s [William GWALTNEY, partner in GGKW] today I moved to enforce settlement. They actually agreed to a trial payment with my client in writing at mediation 2 years ago. The Judge granted the motion and wants a hearing in 60 days on the arrears (which he agreed my client isn’t liable for), sanctions and fees. She made her payment post-mediation and they sent the checks back. I gave him the Massachusetts affidavits from the BOA employees.  The Judge looked shocked. Opposing Counsel argued the Massachusetts case had nothing to do with our case.
Judge said “Mrs. Kelley how about I enter an order telling Plaintiff they have so many days to resolve this?”  I said “with all due respect your Honor BOA hasn’t listened to the OCC and followed the consent order, they haven’t listened to DOJ on the consent judgement and they are violating the AG settlement. I can assure you 100% they won’t listen to this Court either. Once we leave this room we are at the mercy of BOA actually working with us and their own attorney nor this court can get them to.  Their own attorney couldn’t reach them yesterday or today.  My client was to send in one utility bill two years ago. She sent it the day after mediation and they’ve sat and racked up two years of arrears and fees. This court has the power to sanction that behavior under rule 1.730 and should because this was orchestrated. The Massachusetts case is a federal class action which includes Florida homeowners like my client. It says Florida on the Motion for class certification so it does matter in this case. This was a scheme and a fraud.  It was planned and deliberate”.
Opposing counsel wanted to start the modification process over because the mediation agreement said “Upon completion of the trial payments Defendant will be eligible for a permanent modification”. Opposing counsel said “just because they meet the trial payments doesn’t mean they get a permanent mod.”  I said “under the consent judgment they better” and told the judge we were not going through the modification again, my client had already been approved. He agreed and said that the trial would become permanent and ordered BOA to provide an address for payment. He told opposing counsel that the argument that a trial period wouldn’t become permanent wasn’t going to work for him.
I love the 14th circuit. There is a great need from here to Pensacola and in the smaller counties like I was in today you can actually get somewhere.
Now the banks won’t even say impasse at mediation. It’s always “no agreement”.   But they’ll tell you to send in documents the next week only to say they didn’t get them. Now after those affidavits I see why.

Danielle Kelley, Esq.

Garfield, Gwaltney, Kelley & White
4832 Kerry Forest Parkway, Suite B
Tallahassee, Florida 32309
(850) 765-1236

 FOLLOW DANIELLE KELLEY, ESQ. ON HER BLOG

Big Banks Headed For Break-Up

“What policy makers are starting to realize is that the absence of prosecutions and regulatory action against these banks has produced a profound loss of confidence not only in the financial markets but in the leader of the financial markets (the United States) to control itself and its own participants in finance. It’s not just fair to enforce existing laws and regulations against the banks who so flagrantly violated them and nearly destroyed all the economies of the world, it’s the only practical thing to do.” — Neil F Garfield, livinglies.me
If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 (East Coast) and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Comment: There is an old expression that says “At the end of the day, everybody knows everything.” The question of course is how long is the “day.” In this case the day for the bank appears to be about 10-12 years. The foibles of their masters, the conduct of their policies, and the arrogance of their behavior has led them into the position where the once unthinkable break-up of the bank oligopoly and their control, over our government is coming to a close.

The titans of Wall Street have thus far avoided criminal prosecution because of the misguided assumption — promulgated by Wall Street itself — that such prosecutions would destroy the economic systems all over the world (remember when Detroit arrogance reached its peak with “what’s good for GM is good for the country?”). But the Dallas Fed are joining the ranks of of once lone voices like Simon Johnson stating that Too Big to Fail is not a sustainable model and that it distorts the markets, the marketplace and our society.

It is virtually certain now that the mega banks are going to literally be cut down to size and that some form of Glass-Steagel will be revived. As that day nears, the images and facts pouring out onto the public and the danger to the American taxpayer facing deficits caused by the banks in part because they siphoned out the life-blood of liquidity from the American marketplace will overwhelm the last vestiges of resistance and the same lobbyists who were the king makers will be the kiss of death for re-election of any public official.

As they are cut down, the accounting and auditing will start and it will take years to complete. What will emerge is a pattern of theft, deceit, fraud, forgery, perjury and other crimes that are most easily seen in the residential foreclosures that now appear to be mostly illusions that have caused nightmare scenarios for millions of Americans and people in other countries. Those illusions though are still with us and they are still taken as real by many in all branches of government. The thought that the borrower should never have been foreclosed and that the amount demanded of them was wrong is not accepted yet. But it will be because of arithmetic.

Investment banks sold worthless bonds issued by empty creatures that existed only on paper without any assets, money or value of any kind. The banks then funded mortgages of increasingly obvious toxicity to people who might have been able to afford a normal mortgage or who couldn’t afford a mortgage at all but were assured by the banks that the deal was solid. Both investors and homeowners were taken to the cleaners. Neither of them has been addressed in any bailout or restitution.

It is the bailout or restitution to the investors and homeowners that is the key to rejuvenating our economy. Trust in the system and wealth in the middle class is the only historical reference point for a successful society. All the rest crumbled. As the banks are taken apart, the privilege of using “off-balance sheet” transactions will be revealed as a free pass to steal money from investors. The banks took the money from investors and used a large part of it to gamble. Then they covered their tracks with lies about the quality of loans whose nominal rates of interest were skyrocketing through previous laws against usury.

For those who worry about the deficit while at the same time remain loyal to their largest banking contributors, they are standing with one foot upon the other. They can’t move and eventually they will fall. The American public may not be filled with PhD economists, but they know theft when it is revealed and they know what should happen to the thief and the compatriots of the thief.

For the moment we are still rocketing along the path of assuming the home loans, student loans, credit cards, auto loans, furniture loans et al were valid loans wherein the lenders had a risk of loss and actually suffered a loss resulting from the non payment by the borrower. As the information spreads about what really happened with all consumer debt, housing included, the people will understand that their debts were paid off by the investment banks, the insurance, companies and the counterparties on hedge products like credit default swaps.

A creditor is entitled to be repaid the money loaned. But if they have been repaid, the fact that the borrower didn’t pay it does not create a fact pattern under which the current law allows the creditor to seek additional payment from the borrower when their receivable account is zero. Yet it is possible that the parties who paid off the debt might be entitled to contribution from the borrower — if they didn’t waive that right when they entered into the insurance or hedge contract with the investment banks. Even so, the mortgage lien would be eviscerated. And the debt open to discussion because the insurers and counterparties did in fact agree not to pursue any remedies against the borrowers. It’s all part of the cover-up so the transactions look like civil matters instead of criminal matters.

Thus far, we have allowed windfall after windfall to the banks who never had any risk of loss and who received federal bailouts, insurance, and proceeds of credit default swaps and multiple sales of the same loan — all without crediting the investors who advanced all the money that was used in the mortgage maelstrom.

The practical significance of this is simple: the money given to the banks went into a black hole and may never be seen again. The money given BACK to (restitution) investors will result in fixing at least partly the imbalance caused by the bank theft. It will also decrease the loss suffered by the lenders in the loans marked as home loans, auto loans, student loans etc. This in turn reduces the amount owed by the borrower. Their is no “reduction” of principal there is merely a “deduction” or “correction” to reflect payments received by the investors or their agents.

The practical significance of this is that money, wealth and income will be  channeled back to the those who are in the middle class or who belong there but for the trickery of the banks and the economy starts to hum a little better than before.

It all starts with abandoning the Too Big To Fail hypothesis. What policy makers are starting to realize is that the absence of prosecutions and regulatory action against these banks has produced a profound loss of confidence not only in the financial markets but in the leader of the financial markets to control itself and its own participants in finance. It’s not just fair to enforce existing laws and regulations against the banks who so flagrantly violated them and nearly destroyed all the economies of the world, it’s the only practical thing to do.

Big Banks Have a Big Problem
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/big-banks-have-a-big-problem/

We The Taxpayers Are On The Hook For Mortgages, Student Loans, Banks
http://lonelyconservative.com/2013/03/we-the-taxpayers-are-on-the-hook-for-mortgages-student-loans-banks/

Documentary Co-Produced by Broker Exposes Foreclosure Devastation, Housing System Flaws, in Low-Income Hispanic Neighborhood of Phoenix
http://rismedia.com/2013-03-13/documentary-co-produced-by-broker-exposes-foreclosure-devastation-housing-system-flaws-in-low-income-hispanic-neighborhood-of-phoenix/

Housing advocates accuse Wells Fargo of damaging communities through foreclosures
http://www.scpr.org/blogs/economy/2013/03/13/12908/housing-advocates-accuse-well-fargo-damaging-commu/

 

U.S. Attorney Continues to Prosecute Despite Settlements

CHECK OUT OUR DECEMBER SPECIAL!

What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

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

Editor’s Note: Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He is unfazed by the tangle of “settlements” and will not let up on prosecuting Bank of America for fraud. He gets it and is methodically working his way through the maze set up by the mega banks.

BofA settled a civil claim that it had lied when they “sold” mortgages advertised as meeting government standards. We all know by now that the loans “lacked documentation and underwriting.” But what is still to come out is WHY they lacked documentation and WHY the loans lacked underwriting.

The documentation was absent simply to hide the fact that the bank was pretending to have ownership or an insurable interest in the loans and mortgage bonds. The true transaction was between the investor/lenders and the homeowner/borrowers. BofA stole or misused the identities of both the lender and the borrowers so that it could sell the loans many times under guise of exotic derivative instruments called mortgage backed bonds.

If fully documented, the lender would have shown up as the investors, which is as it should have been. BofA never put up a dime for the funding or acquisition of any of the loans. Its claim of ownership and an insurable interest was a blatant lie, inasmuch as they actually had no risk of loss, which is why there was no underwriting standards applied either.

I would suggest you track the pleadings of this U.S. Attorney and pick up some pointers along the way. He is definitely on the right track. As for now, the focus is on the bad mortgage bonds, bad loans, and lack of documentation up at the lender level.

Once that veil is penetrated it will be revealed that the borrower was defrauded using the same misdirected documentation using appraisal fraud as the principal leverage point.

But the real stuff is going to hit the fan as more and more people realize that this standard practice in the industry allegedly to “protect” the investors, invalidated the chain of title and there has been no effort to correct the problem. When it is revealed that the investors were cheated out of their money by a use of proceeds that crosses the borders of fraud, and that the terms of the bonds were never intended to be satisfied, just as the terms of the loan were never meant to be satisfied or secured, then we will have justice peeking its head out over the mess.

In the end, legally, there will be privity or a relationship only between the investor/lenders and the borrowers and that there transaction was supposed to be documented and recorded. Instead the banks documented and recorded a different transaction in which the intermediaries looked like the principals and were therefore able to do “proprietary trading” in which they took investor money from one pocket and put it into another.

That is what opened the door to huge “profits” (actually theft proceeds) on the way up and on the way down. These banks are now buying the same houses from themselves (using another affiliate entity) and then reporting the results to the investors so they can write off the loss. They are going to be the largest landowners in history as a result of this PONZI scheme.

The investors were duped into thinking that all the intermediary entities were being used to protect them from liability from claims of deceptive and predatory lending practices. In actuality the investors were already protected because their agents committed intentional acts of malfeasance and crimes that were specifically prohibited in the documents and other representations the investors received.

Just like the Too Big to Fail Myth, the investors are operating under the myth that if they assert themselves as lenders, they are going to get sued. That too is untrue. If they assert themselves as lenders, then they are going to show proof of payment, something the megabanks can’t do because they used investor money instead of their own.

If the investors assert themselves as lenders they will see that money is missing from the investment pools and that in fact the investment pools were never funded at all. They will realize that they have a legitimate claim for repayment of loans, and a legitimate claim for civil or criminal theft against the banks who intentionally diverted the documentation and the money from the investors and from the borrowers.

That will leave the investors and borrowers with (1) an obligation that is mostly undocumented and (2) unsecured. But the borrowers are more than happy to allow a mortgage if it reflects fair market value. This is what will give the investors far more than the current process in which the banks have a stranglehold on the mortgage modification process (for mortgages that are invalid from the start).

If you pierce through the veil of PR and utter nonsense flowing out of the banks and their planted articles in every periodical around the country, you will find your lender and you will find out the balance due because both of you (homeowner and investor) are going to want to know what happened to all the insurance money, credit default swaps and Federal bailouts that were promised, paid, but not delivered.

Because the mega banks were mere intermediaries pretending to be lenders the entire current scenario is going to turn upside down. Ultimately, the insurance, CDS and bailouts were in fact bailouts of the homeowners and investors. When they are applied correctly according to common sense and the contracts that were executed, practically none of the mortgages will have the balance demanded by the intermediary banks who claim but do not own the mortgages or rights to foreclose. Thus practically no foreclosure was correct by any standard, no credit bid was valid at auction, and no eviction was legal.

As these facts are revealed and accepted by a critical mass of people, the Too Big to Fail Myth will be put to the test. The nonexistent assets on their balance sheets will be reduced to zero. What will really happen is simply that the mega banks will collapse inward and the thousands of other banks that are unfairly under the thumb of the bank oligarchy will be able to pick up the pieces that are left and return to normal banking, with normal profits and normal bonuses.

Allowing the mega bank to retain the money they stole is like throwing a steak to a dog. Now that they have a taste of unlawful profits driving their profitability upward, they will only want more. Our job is to make sure they don’t get it. The Obama administration was surprised by the quick recovery by the banks. The truth, as it will be revealed in the coming months and years, is that there was no bank recovery because there were no bank losses. THAT is why the banks grew while the rest of the economy tanked.

Theoretically it is impossible for the bank profits to go up while the stock market and the economy is going down the drain. Their profits are supposed to come from being intermediaries in commerce, not principals.

Thus the higher the commercial activity, the better it is for the banks. But here, the relationship was twisted. The banks sucked the money out of the economy in “off balance sheet” transactions, secreted the money around the world, and are now able to report higher and higher profits every year simply because that is the way that they can repatriate their ill-gotten gains. By doing that they drive up the apparent value of their stocks and their stockholders are happy. What the stockholders do not realize is that this is a powder keg that will, at some point, implode. Yes, Warren Buffet is wrong.

See the story and Links Here

Despite a settlement with an alleged victim, U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara will continue to prosecute Bank of America for selling allegedly fraudulent loans to Fannie Mae and other government-sponsored enterprises, his office told the Charlotte Business Journal.

Bharara, U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, charged BofA with fraud in a $1 billion federal lawsuit in October. He alleged in court documents that BofA had sold government agencies such as Fannie Mae billions of dollars in mortgages that were advertised as meeting government standards. However, the suit contends the loans actually lacked proper documentation and underwriting.

Why the Fed Can’t Get it Right

CHECK OUT OUR DECEMBER SPECIAL!

What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

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

Editor’s Analysis and Comments: Bloomberg reports this morning that “Fed Flummoxed by Mortgage Yield Gap Refusing to Shrink.” (see link below)

In normal times lowering the Fed Funds rate and providing other incentives to banks always produced more lending and more economic activity. Bernanke doesn’t seem to understand the answer: these are not normal times and the cancerous fake securitization scheme that served as the platform for the largest PONZI scheme in human history is still metastasizing.

Why wouldn’t banks take advantage of a larger spread in the Fed funds rate versus the mortgage lending rates. Under the old school times that would automatically go to the bottom line of lending banks as increased profits. If we put aside the conspiracy theories that the banks are attempting to take down the country we are left with one inevitable conclusion: in the “new financial system” (sounds like the “new economy” of the 1990’s) the banks have concluded there would be no increase in profit. In fact one would be left to the probable conclusion that somehow they would face a loss or risk of loss that wasn’t present in the good old days.

Using conventional economic theory Bernanke is arriving at the conclusion that the spread is not large enough for banks to take on the business of lending in a dubious economic environment. But that is the point — conventional economic theory doesn’t work in the current financial environment. With housing prices at very low levels and the probability that they probably won’t decline much more, conventional risk management would provide more than enough profit for lending to be robust.

When Bernanke takes off the blinders, he will see that the markets are so interwoven with the false assumptions that the mortgage loans were securitized, that there is nothing the Fed can do in terms of fiscal policy that would even make a dent in our problems. $700 trillion+ in nominal derivatives are “out there” probably having no value at all if one were the legally trace the transactions. The real money in the U.S. (as opposed to these “cash equivalent” derivatives) is less than 5% of the total nominal value of the shadow banking system which out of sheer apparent size dwarfs the world banks including  the Fed.

As early as October of 2007 I said on these pages that this was outside the control of Fed fiscal policy because the amount of money affected by the Fed is a tiny fraction of the amount of apparent money generated by shadow banking.

Oddly the only place where this is going to be addressed is in the court system where people bear down on Deny and Discover and demand an accounting from the Master Servicer, Trustee and all related parties for all transactions affecting the loan receivable due to the investors (pension funds). The banks know full well that many or most of the assets they are reporting for reserve and capital requirements or completely false.

Just look at any investor lawsuit that says you promised us a mortgage backed bond that was triple A rated and insured. What you have given us are lies. We have no bonds that are worth anything because the bonds are not truly mortgage backed. The insurance and hedges you purchased with our money were made payable to you, Mr. Wall Street banker, instead of us. The market values and loan viability were completely false as reported, and even if you gave us the mortgages they are unenforceable.

The Banks are responding with “we are enforcing them, what are you talking about.” But the lawyers for most of the investors and some of the borrowers are beginning to see through this morass of lies. They know the notes and mortgages are not enforceable except by brute force and intimidation in and out of the courtroom.

If the deals were done straight up, the investor would have received a mortgage backed bond. The bond, issued by a pool of assets usually organized into a “trust” would have been the payee on the notes at origination and the secured party in the mortgages and deeds of trust. If the loan was acquired after origination by a real lender (not a table funded loan) then an assignment would have been immediately recorded with notice to the borrower that the pool owned his loan.

In a real securitization deal, the transaction in which the pool funded the origination or purchase of the loan would be able to to show proof of payment very easily — but in court, we find that when the Judge enters an order requiring the Banks to open up their books the cases settle “confidentially” for pennies on the dollar.

The entire TBTF (Too Big to Fail) doctrine is a false doctrine but nonetheless driving fiscal and economic policy in this country. Those banks are only too big if they are continued to be allowed to falsely report their assets as if they owned the bonds or loans.

Reinstate generally accepted accounting principles and the shadow banking assets deflate like a balloon with the air let out of it. $700 trillion becomes more like $13 trillion — and then the crap hits the fan for the big banks who are inundated with claims. 7,000 community banks, savings banks and credit union with the same access to electronic funds transfer and internet banking as any other bank, large or small, stand ready to pick up the pieces.

Homeowner relief through reduction of household debt would provide a gigantic financial stimulus to the economy bring back tax revenue that would completely alter the landscape of the deficit debate. The financial markets would return to free trading markets freed from the corner on “money” and corner on banking that the mega banks achieved only through lies, smoke and mirrors.

The fallout from the great recession will be with us for years to come no matter what we do. But the recovery will be far more robust if we dealt with the truth about the shadow banking system created out of exotic instruments based upon consumer debt that was falsified, illegally closed, deftly covered up with false assignments and endorsements.

While we wait for the shoe to drop when Bernanke and his associates can no longer ignore the short plain facts of this monster storm, we have no choice but to save homes, one home at a time, still fighting a battle in which the borrower is more often the losing party because of bad pleading, bad lawyering and bad judging. If you admit the debt, the note and the mortgage and then admit the default, no  amount of crafty arguments are going to give you the relief you need and to which you are entitled.

Fed Confused by Lack of Response from Banks on Yield Spread Offered

Everything Built on Myth Eventually Fails

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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.

TBTF Banks Bigger than Ever — How is that possible in a recession?

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Editor’s Comment: 

The pernicious effect of the banks and the difficulty of regulating them across transnational and state borders has led to a growing nightmare that history will repeat itself sooner than later.

This is to rocket science — it is recognition. We have median income still declining in what is still by most measures a recession that is about to get worse. Yet the largest banks are reporting record profits. What that means is that Wall Street is making more money “trading paper” than the rest of the country is making doing actual commerce — i.,e. the making and selling of goods of services.

This is another inversion of common sense. But it is explainable. 4 years ago I predicted that as the recession depressed the earnings of most companies the banks would nonetheless show increased profits. The reason was simply that using Bermuda, Bahamas, Cayman Islands the banks siphoned off most of the credit market liquidity through the tier 2 yield spread premium. The tier 2 YSP was really the money the banks made by selling crappy loans as good loans from aggregators to the investors — and then failed to document any part of the real transactions where money exchanged hands. In some case the YSP “trading profit” exceed the amount of the loan.

So now they are able to feed those “trading profits” back into their system a little at a time reporting ever increasing profits while the the real world goes to hell. So tell, me, what is it going to take to get you to to go to the streets, write the letters and demand that justice be done and allow, for the first time, investors and borrowers to get together and reach settlements in lieu of foreclosures? Don’t you see that whether you are rich or poor, renting or owning, that all of this is going to bring down your wealth and buying power. The Federal Reserve has already tripled the U.S. Currency money supply giving all the benefit to the TBTF banks. It seems to me that as group the American citizens are far more too big to fail than any industry or company.

Evil prospers when good people do nothing. 

Big Five Banks larger than before crisis, bailout

WASHINGTON —

Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis.

Five banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

Five years earlier, before the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to 43 percent of U.S. output. The Big Five today are about twice as large as they were a decade ago relative to the economy, sparking concern that trouble at a major bank would rock the financial system and force the government to step in as it did during the 2008 crunch.

“Market participants believe that nothing has changed, that too-big-to-fail is fully intact,” said Gary Stern, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

That specter is eroding faith in Obama’s pledge that taxpayer-funded bailouts are a thing of the past. It also is exposing him to criticism from Federal Reserve officials, Republicans and Occupy Wall Street supporters, who see the concentration of bank power as a threat to economic stability.

As weaker firms collapsed or were acquired, a handful of financial giants emerged from the crisis and have thrived. Since then, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo have continued to swell, if less dramatically, thanks to internal growth and acquisitions from European banks shedding assets amid the euro crisis.

The industry’s evolution defies the president’s January 2010 call to “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system.” Embracing new limits on banks’ trading operations, Obama said then that taxpayers wouldn’t be well “served by a financial system that comprises just a few massive firms.”

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, blames a “lack of leadership at Treasury and the White House” for the failure to fulfill that promise. “It’d be safer to break them up,” he said.

The Obama administration rejects the criticism, citing new safeguards to head off further turmoil in the banking system. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the U.S. “financial system is significantly stronger than it was before the crisis.” He credits a flurry of new regulations, including tougher capital and liquidity requirements that limit risk-taking by the biggest banks, authority to take over failing big institutions, and prohibitions on the largest banks acquiring competitors.

The government’s financial system rescue, beginning with the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program, angered millions of taxpayers and helped give rise to the tea-party movement. Banks and bailouts remain unpopular: By a margin of 52 to 39 percent, respondents in a February Pew Research Center poll called the bailouts “wrong” and 68 percent said banks have a mostly negative effect on the country.

The banks say they have increased their capital backstops in response to regulators’ demands, making them better able to ride out unexpected turbulence. JPMorgan, whose chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, this month acknowledged public “hostility” toward bankers, boasts of a “fortress balance sheet.” Bank of America, which was about 50 percent larger at the end of 2011 than five years earlier, says it has boosted capital and liquidity while increasing to 29 months the amount of time the bank could operate without external funding.

“We’re a much stronger company than we were heading into the crisis,” said Jerry Dubrowski, a Bank of America spokesman. The bank, based in Charlotte, says it plans to shrink by year-end to $1.75 trillion in risk-weighted assets, a measure regulators use to calculate how much capital individual banks must hold.

Still, the banking industry has become increasingly concentrated since the 1980s. Today’s 6,291 commercial banks are less than half the number that existed in 1984, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The trend intensified during the crisis as JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual; Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch; and Wells Fargo took over Wachovia in deals encouraged by the government.

“One of the bad outcomes, the adverse outcomes of the crisis, was the mergers that were of necessity undertaken when large banks were at-risk,” said Donald Kohn, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006-2010. “Some of the biggest banks got a lot bigger, and the market got more concentrated.”

In recent weeks, at least four current Fed presidents — Esther George of Kansas City, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond and Richard Fisher of Dallas — have voiced similar worries about the risk of a renewed crisis.

The annual report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas was devoted to an essay by Harvey Rosenblum, head of the bank’s research department, “Why We Must End Too Big to Fail — Now.”

A 40-year Fed veteran, Rosenblum wrote in the report released last month: “TBTF institutions were at the center of the financial crisis and the sluggish recovery that followed. If allowed to remain unchecked, these entities will continue posing a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy.”

The alarms come almost two years after Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation act. The law required the largest banks to draft contingency plans or “living wills” detailing how they would be unwound in a crisis. It also created a financial-stability council headed by the Treasury secretary, charged with monitoring the system for excessive risk-taking.

The new protections represent an effort to avoid a repeat of the crisis and subsequent recession in which almost 9 million workers lost their jobs and the U.S. government committed $245 billion to save the financial system from collapse.

The goal of policy makers is to ensure that if one of the largest financial institutions fails in the next crisis, shareholders and creditors will pay the tab, not taxpayers.

“Two or three years from now, Goldman Sachs should be like MF Global,” said Dennis Kelleher, president of the nonprofit group Better Markets, who doubts the government would allow a company such as Goldman to repeat MF Global’s Oct. 31 collapse.

Dodd-Frank, the most comprehensive rewriting of financial regulation since the 1930s, subjected the largest banks to higher capital requirements and closer scrutiny. The law also barred federal officials from providing specific types of assistance that were used to prevent such firms from failing in 2008. Instead, the Fed will work with the FDIC to put major banks and other large institutions through the equivalent of bankruptcy.

“If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy,” Obama said before signing the act on July 21, 2010. “And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is too big to fail.”

Officials at the Treasury Department, the Fed and other agencies have spent the past two years drafting detailed regulations to make that vision a reality.

Yet the big banks stayed big or, in some cases, grew larger. JPMorgan, which held $2 trillion in total assets when Dodd-Frank was signed, reached $2.3 trillion by the end of 2011, according to Federal Reserve data.

For Lacker, the banks’ living wills are the key to placing the financial system on sounder footing. Done right, they may require institutions to restructure to make their orderly resolution during a crisis easier to accomplish, he said.

Neil Barofsky, Treasury’s former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, calls the idea of winding down institutions with more than $2 trillion in assets “completely unrealistic.”

It’s likely that more than one bank would face potential failure during any crisis, he said, which would further complicate efforts to gracefully collapse a giant bank. “We’ve made almost no progress on ending too big to fail,” he said.

ADAM LEVITIN: HOUSING MARKET IS TOO BIG TO FAIL

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: Adam Levitin has nailed it again. From politics to practicality to legality.

The Multistate Foreclosure Settlement

posted by Adam Levitin
The New York Times came out with a strong editorial urging state AGs and the Administration not to rush into the proposed multi-state settlement deal. I think it’s worthwhile reviewing what we know about the deal and the arguments for and against it.  Let’s start with the facts that we know.  There aren’t many that are publicly confirmed; the Administration, the AGs leading the multi-state settlement, and the banks very much want to avoid public comment on the deal–they want to present it as a fait accompli.  As a result, there hasn’t been definitive reporting on the contents of the term sheet currently circulating among AGs.  It appears, however, the the deal has the following features.

Some 16 banks that do mortgage servicing will:

contribute a total of $5 billion in cash;
contribute total of mortgage assets with a face value of $20 billion, but a market value considerably lower;
agree to uniform servicing standards.
In exchange, the state and federal authorities signing on would give the banks:

  • a release of all servicing claims;
  • a release of all origination claims, including discriminatory lending claims;
  • a release of all MERS claims against the banks, leaving MERS Inc. as a potential defendant for MERS related issues (MERS Inc. has no financial assets of note.)
  • Perhaps $20B of the money would be used for principal write-downs and for interest rate reductions (via refinancings, which have the added benefit of relieving the banks of rep and warranty problems on the old loan) on the loans owned by these banks, which is less than 10% of the first lien loans in the U.S.

Let’s start with the argument for this deal and then consider why it is wrong.

The defenders of the deal make no bones that it is perfect.  Instead, they make two related arguments for the deal:  Too-Big-to-Fail and Exigency.

  • The Too-Big-to-Fail argument is that the US housing market is too fragile and can’t afford anything upsetting status quo; it is necessary to close some sort of deal for stability’s sake.
  • The Exigency argument is that every day of delay means more foreclosures, so it’s imperative to close the deal fast to get help to homeowners.

So what’s wrong with these arguments?

What’s Wrong with the Too-Big-to-Fail Argument

The housing market is too-big-to-fail. It’s true. The problem is that it has failed, and the proposed multi-state deal doesn’t fix the market. The deal simply isn’t broad enough to put all the housing market concerns to rest. The deal doesn’t buy peace for the banks or stability for the US housing market.  It just blows the government’s last wad on a sideshow issue, robosigning. Consider all the critical issues the settlement does not (and cannot) address:

  • The $700B in negative equity in the US.
  • Clouded title from MERS
  • Clouded title from wrongful foreclosrues
  • Billions in investor putback and securities fraud claims
  • Investor suits against trustee banks
  • Disposal of the REO inventory and the shadow REO inventory
  • Foreclosures
  • If the deal is to help the US housing market on a macro-scale, it has to take a major bite out of negative equity. $20B isn’t even a scratch.

The Too-Big-to-Fail argument, like all TBTF arguments, also grates against the rule of law.  In this case, it elevates housing market stability over the rule of law.  Ignoring banking law like prompt corrective action and source of strength doctrine and perverting section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act are all problematic, but the law being violated there is law designed to protect the banking system.  That means it is at least susceptible to the argument that its violation actually furthers its purpose.

The same cannot be said about robosigning and fair lending and securities laws.  Those laws are not enacting to protect the banking system.  They are enacted to protect the citizens for whose benefit the government suffers the banking system to exist.  Ignoring the rule of law in these contexts deeply undermines the legitimacy of the US legal system.  It starts to look like the only rule of decision is “banks win.”  That’s a recipe for social disaster. But that seems to be the message that is going out now.  If you’re a bank, you get bailed out and then get a get out of jail free card to boot.  If you’re a homeowner you get some empty promises of help, some more empty promises, and then you lose your home.  The fate of an $11 trillion market is hardly trivial, but when compared to the importance of rule of law in society, it looks like 30 silver shekels.

Now I recognize that there is a seeming tension between saying that robosigning is a sideshow issue and that it goes to the heart of the rule of law.  My point is this:  if the goal here is macroeconomic stability, who gives a fig about robosigning and why is the multistate settlement wasting its time on the issue?  But if our goal is to be a society of laws, not banks, then robosigning is a hugely important and symbolic issue.

If one takes the Too-Big-to-Fail argument seriously, then this is simply the wrong settlement.  Instead, we need a global settlement that addresses negative equity and makes the market clear, that clears MERS title, that compensates for wrongful foreclosures and for the harm to society via robosigning.  We need a settlement that can put investor claims to rest too.

Alternative, if this is about robosigning, then there shouldn’t be any settlement, much less any rush. Instead, we should just see prosecutions, fines, and jail time.

What’s Wrong with the Exigency Argument

The exigency argument REALLY galls me. It’s got all the chutzpah of the patricide pleading for mercy because he’s an orphan. Where the fuck was the exigency for the past three years?  The Administration wasted years dicking around with HAMP and HARP programs that were patently flawed from the get-go.  Look at the Congressional Oversight Panels’ original reports of HAMP.  All of the problems were obvious to anyone who wasn’t willfully blind.

And what of the AGs?  It’s not like servicing is a brand new issue to many AGs–some of them have been dealing with servicing since 2003 or so.  If there was some exigency, the AGs inclined to sign onto the settlement should have been putting resources on investigation years ago, and they should have closed this deal months ago.

Now, it is true that every day of delay means more foreclosures.  But rushing a crappy deal doesn’t serve homeowners’ interests.  A quickie deal that gives token relief won’t prevent any foreclosures.  Better to take a little more time and have a serious deal that gives serious relief.

If we want to prevent foreclosures, we need to see something more than a token attack on negative equity.  We need major principal reductions (remember, however, that principal reductions are a GAAP accounting write-down, not hard cash).  We also need serious hands-on involvement with borrowers.  It is time-consuming, and expensive, but these are our neighbors, our friends, our family, our countrymen.  Their fate affects us all.  And the evidence is clear that hands-on involvement works.  It saves money and homes in the end.  A recent HUD door-knocking program for FHA loans cost $17 million and saved taxpayers $1 billion. Fortunately HUD insisted on the program, because the bank that services those loans had no interest in it.

The two arguments for the multi-state deal, Too-Big-to-Fail and Exigency don’t hold any water.  But pointing out the flaws in these arguments are not an affirmative argument against the deal. So here they are:

The Multi-State Deal Gives Too Much Away.

The settling AGs and federal government would be giving away claims that they have not investigated and therefore cannot possibly value, something the NY and DE AGs noted in a recent op-ed.  The Huffington Post has previously reported that the AGs have done virtually no investigation of robosigning (excluding now NY, DE, and NV).  And there has been even less investigation of origination claims.  Many of the origination claims have statutes of limitations are will expire soon, but these are serious fraud and civil rights claims.  They are much, much more serious issues than the mass perjury of robosigning in terms of harms to individuals.

The Multi-State Deal Accomplishes Too Little.

If the goal of the settlement is to bring stability to the housing market, this won’t do it.  Consider all the issues left unresolved.  Investor claims, including putbacks and trustee suits are left untouched.  Homeowner claims for wrongful foreclosure and wrongful denial of modifications are left untouched.  Homeowner claims for discriminatory lending are left untouched.  Servicing standards will, hopefully, reduce servicer abuses, but that requires real enforcement.  It’s hard to imagine the AGs who sign this deal ever cracking the whip on compliance.  We know the OCC won’t.  And the CFPB can’t yet.  Critically, NOTHING in the settlement will stop the unending parade of foreclosures or get rid of the $700 billion in negative equity that is dragging down the US economy.  Indeed, it’s laughable to think that $25 billion of nominal assets would possibly cover these liabilities.

To put hard numbers on this, what does $20 billion buy?  At $65,000 negative equity per mortgage, it doesn’t buy very much.  It puts 307,692 homeowners back to zero equity. That less than 3% of the 10.9 million homeowners with negative equity. Or what about in terms of interest rate reductions over 5 years?  Let’s assume an average mortgage balance of $150,000.  That means a 1% (100bps) reduction in the interest rate on that mortgage would be $1,500.  How many homeowners does $25 billion over 5 years help?  $20b/$1500/5=2.6 million.  So $20 billion gets 2.6 billion homeowners a 1% (100bp) reduction in their interest rate.  These homeowners save $125/month for 5 years.  At the end of which the homeowner will still have deep negative equity. And it would still be helping less than a quarter of underwater homeowners.

Here’s my proposal:  let’s just call this HAMP 2.0.  It’s like a sequel to a bad movie.  We know how it is going to end. Let’s just stop wasting everyone’s time here. If this is the best the Administration can do, we might as well adopt the Mitt Romney foreclosure plan–stand aside and let the system do its work. (Gosh, that sounds an awful lot like the Geithner non-plan…) Even if one thinks of the settlement as a one-two punch with HARP 2.0, it’s a wishful featherweight in a heavyweight bout.

Here’s the question you should be asking the AGs and the Administration:  is this going to matter on the macro level?  And if not, is it doing justice?  A settlement better be doing one or the other, if not both. If it’s neither, all this is a little gravy to a handful of random homeowners and some unconvincing political C.Y.A.

The Administration Only Gets One More Bite at the Apple

A final thought.  Yves Smith made a trenchant political observation at the AmeriCatalyst mortgage conference yesterday:  the Administration only gets one more bite at the apple in terms of getting the housing market right. If the Administration flubs this, as they have consistently flubbed the housing issue, by going small bore and trying to sweep problems under the rug, rather than addressing them, there are serious political implications. It doesn’t take a lot to connect the dots between the multistate settlement and the deep national demand for accountability for the financial crisis that is manifesting itself in OWS and the need to take real action to deal with the housing market problems that are at the core of the US’s economic woes.

I’m not sure where the Administration’s political team is on this one, but imho, it seems like they are letting Treasury drive the 2012 campaign off the cliff via this settlement that will confirm the perception that the Administration works for Wall Street, not Main Street. And if you think I’m nuts on this, just read the first line of the NYT editorial:  “The banks want California, and the Obama administration hopes they can get it.”  In a country craving accountability for the financial crisis and its aftermath, being cozy with the banks is the wrong place to be when approaching a general election.

November 9, 2011 at 10:40 PM in Financial Institutions, Mortgage Debt & Home Equity, Too Big to Fail (TBTF)–

FRAUD: The Significance of the Game Changing FHFA Lawsuits

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FHFA ACCUSES BANKS OF FRAUD: THEY KNEW THEY WERE LYING

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

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

Throwing the Book at U.S. Banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Securities Claims the New Put-Backs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

Simon JOhnson: Regulation is a Myth

EDITOR’S NOTE: Johnson is a leading economist who has been a consistent critic of anyone who fails to face reality. Applying his knowledge as an economist form the International Monetary Fund, his point is that we have a bank oligopoly in control of our society and that the TBTF banks are running the show. I agree

March 31, 2011, 5:00 am

The Myth of Resolution Authority

By SIMON JOHNSON
Today's Economist

Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, is the co-author of “13 Bankers.”

Senator Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, has been highly skeptical about whether the federal government's power to shut banks can be applied to global megabanks unless an international accord is reached.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News Senator Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, has been highly skeptical about whether the federal government’s power to shut banks can be applied to global megabanks, unless an international accord is reached.

Back when it really mattered – last spring, during the debate over the Dodd-Frank financial regulation – Senator Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, emphasized repeatedly on the Senate floor that the proposed “resolution authority” (the power to shut banks) was an illusion.

His point was that extending the established Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation powers for “resolving” financial institutions to include global megabanks simply could not work.

At the time, Senator Kaufman’s objections were dismissed by “experts” from both the official sector and the private sector. Now these same people (or their close colleagues) are falling over themselves to argue that resolution cannot work for the country’s giant bank holding companies. The implication, which these officials and bankers still cannot grasp, is that we need much higher capital requirements for systemically important financial institutions.

Writing in the March 29 edition of National Journal, Michael Hirsh quotes a “senior Federal Reserve Board regulator” as saying: “Citibank is a $1.8 trillion company, in 171 countries with 550 clearance and settlement systems,” and “We think we’re going to effectively resolve that using Dodd-Frank? Good luck!”

The regulator’s point is correct. The F.D.I.C. can close small and medium-size banks in an orderly manner, protecting depositors while imposing losses on shareholders and even senior creditors. But to imagine that it can do the same for a very big bank strains credulity.

And to argue that such a resolution authority can work for any bank with significant cross-border operations is simply at odds with the legal facts. The resolution authority granted under Dodd-Frank is purely domestic; that is, it applies only within the United States.

Congress cannot readily make laws that apply in other countries. A cross-border resolution authority would require either agreement among the various governments involved or some sort of synchronization for the relevant parts of commercial bankruptcy codes and procedures.

There are no indications that such arrangements will be made, or that serious intergovernmental efforts are under way to create any kind of cross-border resolution authority — for example, within the Group of 20.

For more than a decade, the International Monetary Fund has been advising that the euro zone adopt some sort of cross-border resolution mechanism. But European (and other) governments do not want to take this kind of step.

Rightly or wrongly, they do not want to credibly commit to how they would handle large-scale financial failure –- preferring instead to rely on various kinds of ad hoc and spontaneous measures.

I have checked these facts directly and recently with top Wall Street lawyers, with leading thinkers from left and right on financial issues (in the United States, Europe and elsewhere), and with responsible officials from the United States and other countries. That Senator Kaufman was correct is now affirmed on all sides.

Even leading figures within the financial sector now acknowledge this. Mr. Hirsch quotes E. Gerald Corrigan, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and an executive at Goldman Sachs since the 1990s: “In my judgment, as best as I can recount history, not just the last three years but the history of mankind, I can’t think of a single case where we were able execute the orderly wind-down of a systemically important institution – especially one with an international footprint.”

It is most unfortunate that Mr. Corrigan did not make that point last year – for example, when he (and I) testified before the Senate Banking Committee on the Volcker Rule in February 2010.

In fact, rather tragically in retrospect, Mr. Corrigan was among those arguing most articulately that some form of Enhanced Resolution Authority (as he called it) could actually handle the failure of large integrated financial groups (again, his terminology).

The “resolution authority” approach to dealing with very big banks has, in effect, failed before it even started.

And standard commercial bankruptcy for global megabanks is not an appealing option -– as argued by Anat Admati in The New York Times’ Room for Debate in January.

The only people I have met who are pleased with the Lehman bankruptcy are bankruptcy lawyers. Originally estimated at more than $900 million, bankruptcy fees for Lehman Brothers are now forecast to top $2 billion. (The AmLaw Daily describes this in detail.)

It’s too late to reopen the Dodd-Frank debate –- and a global resolution authority is a chimera in any case. But it’s not too late to affect policies still under development. The lack of a meaningful resolution authority further strengthens the logic of larger capital requirements, as these would provide stronger buffers against bank insolvency.

The Federal Reserve has yet to announce the percentage of equity financing – i.e., capital – that will be required for systemically important financial institutions (the so-called S.I.F.I.’s). Under Basel III, national regulators set an additional S.I.F.I. capital buffer. The Swiss National Bank is requiring 19 percent capital and the Bank of England is moving in the same direction.

Yet there are clear signs that the Fed’s thinking –- both at the policy level and at the technical level –- is falling behind this curve.

This time around, officials should listen to Senator Kaufman. In his capacity this year as chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (for example, in this hearing), he has been arguing consistently and forcefully for higher capital requirements.

Regulation: Big Government or Big Business

“the banks should not be allowed to be larger than the government’s ability to regulate them”

If you ask someone about big government, they will probably tell you they don’t want government meddling in their personal business. What they really mean is that they don’t want ANYONE meddling in their lives. In reality, that opened the door to the finance sector to meddle, control and alter our lives. Banks, insurance companies and non-bank financial institutions have co-opted governmental decision making, and forced us all to pay dearly — far more than those taxes that everyone is worried about. Just look at the Wall Street bailout or our ridiculous health-care system.

We have let our aversion to big government get in the way of GOOD government. When government is doing the job of protecting us, they do pretty well — better than we could ourselves. When they don’t, we get screwed.

So now we have a financial system with a death grip on virtually every American, present and future, while we pay ever higher fees, costs and other private taxes for services that are provided in other countries at a fraction of the cost we pay here. Today’s article in the New York Times about our $48 billion credit card bill is just an example of how we pay more in fees to use credit and debit cards than anyone else.

The current debate over “too big to fail” is an example of how we end up talking about the wrong things which in turn leads to the wrong regulation and the usual bad result: Americans have less money at the end of the month while financial institutions have more money at the end of the month.

Nobody will argue about our desire for convenience of having ATM access and branch access wherever we might happen to find ourselves. But there is no reason to allow a monopolistic control over the industry rather than impose reasonable regulation so that consumer costs go down with some healthy competition. The industry backbone is already in place for electronic payments and transfers. Every bank, credit union and others could have equal access to it if we required those who control it to be regulated as utilities instead of private enterprise for the sole benefit of its officers and shareholders.

When AT&T was broken up it did eventually lead to much lower costs for voice communication and other forms of communication. So the argument for breaking up the big banks is based upon solid history and good sense. If AT&T had undertaken actions that put the entire country at peril and caused problems with our foreign relations, that would have been another reason to do it. But our government didn’t wait for something bad to happen, it acted in anticipation of the inevitable result of arrogance that comes with total control.

This time, we have the consequences of arrogance and total control and it did in fact put our entire country in peril and caused disruption in our influence and standing around the globe. But now, with the finance sector pouring $1 million per day into lobbying,  we have a debate about whether we should let that happen again. A debate?

We now have half the number of large financial institutions controlling virtually 100% of the finance system of our country than the number of such firms existing in 2007.  This increases the risk to our country, our lives and our world. So we have already ended up with a net loss and a much higher likelihood that we will see disaster, larger than before. How bad do things have to be for the outrage and consequences of Big Business to be confronted?

In my opinion, the banks should not be allowed to be larger than the government’s ability to regulate them. That simple proposition is the only satisfactory answer. Break them down, increase the size and resources of regulatory agencies and make sure there is real oversight of those agencies and we won’t have this problem again. It won’t solve the recovery issues that confront us today but it will at least take the future consequences of a repeat performance off the table for tomorrow.

Bully Bonus: $11.7 Billion JPM

“Each year they will launder more money back into the system and back onto the books so it becomes “on balance sheet” but the explanation of where the profits came from will be double-talk. But as long as we let them do it, they will be using the proceeds of purse snatching from the little people and wholesale robbery from the the taxpayers to pretend that they have higher and higher earnings, make their stock more and more valuable.

QUESTION FOR THE INVESTORS HOLDING CERTIFICATES OF MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITIES: HOW MUCH OF THIS DECLARED PROFIT AND THE BONUSES ACTUALLY SHOULD HAVE GONE TO YOU AS THE CREDITOR WHOSE INVESTMENT WENT SOUR? IS THERE A CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST HERE CREATED BY LAW? COULD IT BE THAT THE BENEFICIARIES INCLUDE YOURSELF, THE HOMEOWNERS AND THE TAXPAYERS THROUGH THEIR GOVERNMENT. ISN’T IT POSSIBLE THAT THESE ALLEGED PROFITS AND BONUSES WOULD COVER MUCH OF YOUR LOSSES?

  1. ISN’T IT POSSIBLE THAT THE INVESTORS CONTINUE TO BE PLAYED AS FOOLS AS THESE BANKS AND OTHER INTERMEDIARIES SPLIT UP THE MONEY YOU INVESTED?
  2. ISN’T IT POSSIBLE THAT THE SERVICERS AND OTHER INTERMEDIARIES ARE ACTING IN THEIR OWN INTERESTS AND NOT THE INTERESTS OF THE INVESTORS.?
  3. ISN’T IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHTS OF A MINORITY SHAREHOLDER OR MINORITY PARTNER FOR ACCESS TO THE REAL INFORMATION ON WHAT IS BEING COLLECTED AND WHERE THE MONEY IS GOING?

This is the start of the REST of the scheme. Gradually repatriating income that was previously undeclared. $23.7 trillion was skimmed largely by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. All that taxpayer money, in cash, obligations and guarantees went out because these banks were “too big to fail” and we accepted the proposition that they were failing when in fact they were sitting on more money than the government had. The “loss” was an accounting loss allowable by changes to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), deregulation and failure of the SEC to enforce the most basic elements of disclosure. They called it “off-balance sheet” transactions.

Now they they are laundering the money back in and giving themselves bonuses out of the taxpayer money they obtained through misrepresentation of their REAL financial status.

Each year they will launder more money back into the system and back on the books so it becomes “on balance sheet” but the explanation of where the profits came from will be double-talk. But as long as we let them do it, they will be using the proceeds of purse snatching from the little people and wholesale robbery from the the taxpayers to pretend that they have higher and higher earnings, make their stock more and more valuable.

They have no trouble taking their bonuses in stock. They know the stock will be ever higher and higher and the price earnings ratios will go up, multiplying the effect of the higher earnings. They know it just as surely as they knew the loans would fail, that their influence in Washington was strong enough with the Bush administration to get free money for fake losses, and that their tacit agreement to let non-creditors sue on defective loans as hush money would keep the cycle going.

President Obama told the big four that the only thing between them and pitchforks from the populace was him and he was doing his best to maintain order. But they don’t get it and they won’t get it because they think, perhaps correctly, that they will get away with the multiple phase scheme to drain America dry. Get out the pitchforks or watch your country dry up into a memory.

What does this mean for litigation and discovery. Plenty. The offshore SIV’s are the vehicle through which this money was sequestered and they are the vehicles through which the money is being laundered back in. That is why you must emphasize that you want the WHOLE accounting and not just the part about the records of the servicer, master servicer or some other intermediary in the securitization chain. They will try to keep the court’s attention on the non-payment of the borrower while you are trying to get a full accounting of the money from the start of the transaction all the way from debtor through creditor.

To use a simple analogy, suppose you had a five year loan and you prepaid the principal at the rate of $1,000 per month for the first three years.

Now they come in and want the court only to look at the total obligation and the fact that you missed the last three payments but they refuse to allow you access to an accounting that would prove the total principal has been reduced by your previous prepayments of $36,00 in addition to the regular amortization contained in your regular monthly payments.

Now add the fact that after the closing they realized that they had overcharged you on points for the loan and other charges, and they sent you a letter to that effect but the credit doesn’t show up in the demand, their notice of default of their foreclosure.

You have a right to demand discovery based upon your allegation that there were was money paid and that there are adjustments due in the accounting and that they have only offered a partial accounting, their demand letter was incorrect and so was their notice of default. What I am suggesting is that all of the above may be true PLUS there may have been debits and credits arising from third party transactions with participants in the securitization chain that you are only just learning about and you have a  right to discovery about that too.

REMEMBER: At this stage you are RAISING the question of fact, not proving it. You don’t have to be right to be entitled to discovery. You only have to make an allegation and it helps to have an expert declaration to go with it. Your goal is not to get the Judge to agree that these people can’t foreclose. Your goal is to get to the truth about your loan, the parties and all the money that exchanged hands. At the conclusion of discovery, properly conducted, and with the help of an expert, the case could very well be over.

New York Times

January 16, 2010

JPMorgan Chase Earns $11.7 Billion

JPMorgan Chase kicked off what is expected to be a robust — and controversial — reporting season for the nation’s banks on Friday with news that its profit and pay for 2009 soared.

In a remarkable rebound from the depths of the financial crisis, JPMorgan earned $11.7 billion last year, more than double its profit in 2008, and generated record revenue. The bank earned $3.3 billion in the fourth quarter alone.

Those cheery figures were accompanied by news that JPMorgan had earmarked $26.9 billion to compensate its workers, much of which will be paid out as bonuses. That is up about 18 percent, with employees, on average, earning about $129,000.

Workers in JPMorgan’s investment bank, on average, earned roughly $380,000 each. Top producers, however, expect to collect multimillion-dollar paychecks.

The strong results — coming a day after the Obama administration, to howls from Wall Street, announced plans to tax big banks to recoup some of the money the government expects to lose from bailing out the financial system — underscored the gaping divide between the financial industry and the many ordinary Americans who are still waiting for an economic recovery.

Over the next week or so, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are expected to report similar surges in pay when they release their year-end numbers.

But not all the news from JPMorgan Chase was good. Signs of lingering weakness in its consumer banking business unnerved Wall Street and drove down its share price along with those of other banks.

Chase’s consumer businesses are still hemorrhaging money. Chase Card Services, its big credit card unit, lost $2.23 billion in 2009 and is unlikely to turn a profit this year. Chase retail services eked out a $97 million profit for 2009, though it posted a $399 million loss in the fourth quarter. To try to stop the bleeding, the bank agreed to temporarily modify about 600,000 mortgages. Only about 89,000 of those adjustments have been made permanent. In a statementon Friday, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan, said that bank “fell short” of its earnings potential and remained cautious about 2010 considering that the job and housing markets continued to be weak.

“We don’t have visibility much beyond the middle of this year and much will depend on how the economy behaves,” Michael J. Cavanagh, the bank’s finance chief, said in a conference call with journalists. Across the industry, analysts expect investment banking revenue to moderate this year and tighter regulations to dampen profit. As consumers and businesses continue to hunker down, lending has also fallen.

Just as it did throughout 2009, JPMorgan Chase pulled off a quarterly profit after the strong performance of its investment bank helped offset large losses on mortgages and credit cards. The bank set aside another $1.9 billion for its consumer loan loss reserves — a hefty sum, but less than in previous periods.

That could be a sign that bank executives are more comfortable that the economy may be turning a corner. The bank has now stockpiled more than $32.5 billion to cover future losses. Still, Mr. Dimon warned that the economy was still too fragile to declare that the worst was over, though he hinted that things might stabilize toward the middle of the year. “We want to see a real recovery, just in case you have another dip down,” he said in a conference call with investors. Earlier, Mr. Cavanagh said that the bank hoped to restore the dividend to 75 cents or $1 by the middle of 2010, from 20 cents at present.

Over all, JPMorgan said 2009 net income rose to $11.7 billion, or $2.26 a share. That compares with a profit of $5.6 billion, or $1.35 a share, during 2008, when panic gripped the industry. Revenue grew to a record $108.6 billion, up 49 percent.

JPMorgan has emerged from the financial crisis with renewed swagger. Unlike several other banking chiefs, Mr. Dimon has entered 2010 with his reputation relatively unscathed. Indeed, he is regarded on Wall Street and in Washington as a pillar of the industry. On Wednesday on Capitol Hill, during a hearing of the government panel charged with examining the causes of the financial crisis, Mr. Dimon avoided the grilling given to Lloyd C. Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs. Mr. Dimon was also the only banker to publicly oppose the administration’s proposed tax on the largest financial companies.

Moreover, JPMorgan appears have taken advantage of the financial crisis to expand its consumer lending business and vault to the top of the investment banking charts, including a top-flight ranking as a fee-earner. Over all, the investment bank posted a $6.9 billion profit for 2009 after a $1.2 billion loss in 2008 when the bank took huge charges on soured mortgage investments and buyout loans.

The division posted strong trading revenue, though well short of the blow-out profits during the first half of the year when the markets were in constant flux. The business of arranging financing for corporations and advising on deals fell off in the last part of the year, though Mr. Cavanagh said there were signs of a rebound in the first two weeks of January.

As the investment bank’s income surged, the amount of money set aside for compensation in that division rose by almost one-third, to about $9.3 billion for 2009. But JPMorgan officials cut the portion of revenue they put in the bonus pool by almost half from last year.

The division, which employs about 25,000 people, reduced the share of revenue going to the compensation pool, to 37 percent by midyear, from 40 percent in the first quarter. The share fell to 11 percent in the fourth quarter because of the impact of the British bonus tax and the greater use of stock awards.

Bank officials have said that they needed to reward the firm’s standout performance, but to show restraint before a public outraged over banker pay. Other Wall Street firms may make similarly large adjustments.

Chase’s corporate bank, meanwhile, booked a $1.3 billion profit this year, even as it recorded losses on commercial real estate loans. Still, that represents a smaller portion of the bank’s overall balance sheet compared with many regional and community lenders. JPMorgan’s asset management business and treasury services units each booked similar profits for 2009.

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