Millennials Want to Buy Homes but Aren’t Saving for Down Payments

https://www.wsj.com/articles/millennials-want-to-buy-homes-but-arent-saving-for-down-payments-1495731583?mod=e2fb

One of the frequent reasons cited for the failure of the US housing sector to rebound to its pre-recession levels, is the lack of household formation among young American adults and specifically the unwillingness, or inability, of Millennials, which last year overtook Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation…

… to move out of their parents’ basement, or stop renting, and purchase their own home. Now, a new study from Apartment List confirms the underlying problem: nearly 70% of young American adults, those aged 18 to 34 years old, said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. This is similar to what a recent GoBanking Survey found last year, according to which 72% of “young millennials”- those between 18 and 24 years old – had $1,000 in their savings accounts and 31% have $0; a sliver (8%) have over $10,000 saved. Of the “older millennials”, those between 25 and 34, 67% had less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, 33% have nothing at all, and 15% have over $10,000.

As the WSJ frames it, with most millennials having saved virtually nothing for a down payment on a home “many will face steep obstacles to homeownership in the years ahead.” It also means that the US housing market, traditionally the bedrock of middle-class American wealth, may never recover to levels seen during the prior economic cycle which incidentally peaked as the housing bubble burst, scarring an entire generation with the vivid memories of what happens when millions of Americans rush to overpay for homes.

Which is not to say that US housing is languishing, on the contrary. As we showed earlier this week, in the first quarter of 2017, the number of California homes that sold for $1 million or more totaled 10,562 up 11.7% year over year and the highest on record for a first quarter.

However, while the 1% (or even 10%) of America’s wealthiest buy and sell trophy real estate among each other (or to Chinese oligarchs) with impunity, creating another bubble in luxury real estate, for the vast majority of America, it’s “middle class”, homeownership is becoming an increasingly elusive dream, forcing many to contend with renting indefinitely.

And, going back to the original study, the culprit appears to be the inability, or unwillingness, or America’s youth to save because according to Apartment List, even senior members of the age group are falling short. Nearly 40% of older millennials, those age 25 to 34, who by historical measures should already own or be a few years away from homeownership, said they are saving nothing for a down payment each month.

Here is the punchline: the vast majority—some 80%—of millennials said they eventually plan to buy a home. But 72% said the primary obstacle is that they can’t afford it.

That’s a pretty big obstacle as the study’s creator admitted. “It’s encouraging that millennials do want to buy homes. It suggests that they are delaying forming households but they’re not giving it up,” said Andrew Woo, director of data science and growth at Apartment List. “The biggest reason [they aren’t buying] is because of affordability.”

This is how America’s most troubled generation sees the problem in their own words: Catie Peterson, a 22-year-old graphic designer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said she doesn’t expect to start saving for a down payment for another five years or so. “I barely have enough savings to cover my car if it were to break down,” she said. Peterson said she pays $975 a month in rent for a small one-bedroom apartment, which is about one third of her paycheck, leaving little room to save.

“Once I get settled in my career and settled in my family, I think buying a house would be reasonable.” It would, but good luck finding something that is affordable enough for the bank to give you a mortgage.

As for the main reasons cited by Millennials why they are unable to save any money, these should be familiar to regular readers: they include student loan debt, rising rents and the slow starts many got to their careers during the recession. Furthermore, with many living in vibrant urban centers with ready access to restaurants, bars and entertainment might, saving seems less urgent. Furthermore, many are children of the affluent baby boomer generation and some expect their parents to give them a boost when the time comes, i.e., they expect to inherit their parents wealth. In total, some 25% of millennials ages 25 to 34 expect to receive help from friends or family, according to the survey. Still, three-quarters said they expect to receive less than $10,000, which might not be enough to close the gap.

* * *

It was not all bad news: the study found that some young people, if not nearly enough, may be saving more. On average, millennials who make more money save a smaller share of their incomes. Those making less than $24,000 save about 10% of their incomes, for example, while those making more than $72,000 save just 3.5%, according to the survey. Also, more millennials are finding a way to buy homes than a few years ago. First-time buyers have accounted for 42% of buyers this year, up from 38% in 2015 and 31% at the lowest point during the recent housing cycle in 2011, according to Fannie Mae (still, a first-time buyer is anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years, a group that could include older people as well.)

Unfortunately for the generation that represents America’s future, the bad news dominates, and as the WSJ concludes many millennials face daunting odds: “less than 30% of 25- to 34-year-olds can save enough for a 10% down payment in the next three years, while just 15% could save that much within a year, according to the Apartment List survey.”

Of course, there is a loophole. As we reported last week, programs are being rolled out to allow first-time buyers to purchase homes with even smaller down payments.  In fact, none other than the bank which had to be bailed out less than a decade ago, Bank of America, recently announced intentions to slash down payments to help Millennials. Speaking to CNBC, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan, the proud owner of Countrywide Financial, said that his mission is to reduce mortgage down payment requirements to 10% for traditional loans.  Per CNBC:

“But, you know, I think at the end of the day is people forget that, at different points in your life and different points on what you’re doing in life requires you to think about housing differently as a place for you and your friends, as a place for you and maybe your significant other, and then ultimately, a place for family. That drives change. And so yes, it’s taken more time. And we talked a lot about this, you know, four or five years ago, that if you require a 20% down payment, it takes just a little more time to accumulate 20% than it would 3% or none, which is what the rules were for a short period of time.”

“So our goal, going back to regulatory reform, is should you move the down payment requirement from 20% to 10%? Wouldn’t introduce that much risk.”

Of course, as we pointed out last week, we are certain that Moynihan’s sole purpose for wanting to
lower down payments is to help those poor millennials living in mom’s basement, and has nothing to do with the fact that’s Bank of America (and Wells Fargo) has lost a ton of fee revenue to government-backed loans that only require a 3% down
payment.

FHA

Why not?  Gradually destroying lending standards worked out really well last time around.

But we digress, so here is 33-year-old data analyst Gina Fontana who explained her problem so simply, even a Fed president could get it: she said she has saved a bit for a down payment but doubts she will use it anytime soon because home prices are so far out of reach. She added that she had saved enough for a 10% down payment on a $200,000 house when she was living in Philadelphia, but couldn’t buy anything in the neighborhoods she liked.

Now she has moved to Berkeley, Calif., and said the area’s home prices—where starter homes can go for close to $1 million—make the odds of buying a home essentially zero. “I don’t see that ever happening,” she said. “I just prefer to travel.”

Which is why it is only a matter of time before everyone throws in the towel on the housing recovery, and Goldman launches its first millennial travel-collaterialized securitization product (and its synthetic derivative

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-05-26/70-millennials-have-less-1000-saved-buying-house

Ally-Rescap Dispute Shows the Rest of the Story: Myth vs. Fact

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“The true transaction is the one where investors gave money to borrowers and the borrowers agreed to pay it back either under the terms of the note, the terms of the bond or some combination of the two. That loan is NOT secured but was intended to be secured by both the actual lender (investors) and the actual borrower (the homeowners). ” — Neil F Garfield, Esq., livinglies.me

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“RIFE WITH CONFLICTS AND INFORMATION GAPS”

Editor’s Analysis: It is still too much to fathom for most Judges, lawyers and even homeowners and investors. The scale of theft in the mortgage crisis is not accepted by government either, so it is being replicated by the banks in student loans and commercial loans to businesses where the spigot is wide open with crazy terms.

The Judges ask “where is your evidence” and the answer as set forth in Wigmore and other scholars on evidence is that where the information is exclusively within the care, custody and control of the party against whom the allegation is made, the burden shifts to that party to prove that the allegation is untrue.

But Judges don’t want to do that probably because they still think the debt is real and legitimate between the parties in front of him or her.

The diversion of funds and documents has been working very well for the Wall Street banks for years now and they have essentially stolen 5-6 million homes using sleight of hand financial maneuvers. But some Judges, like the one I was in front of yesterday in Tallahassee are getting on board at least in terms of acquainting themselves with the process of securitization. Most of them are still arriving at the wrong conclusion because the alternative seems preposterous.

But if you examine the disputes between the big boys, the truth is easy to discern. Here we have (see article below) Rescap and Ally fighting over what others regard as preposterous. But it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Rescap claims and other creditors of Ally Financial would not be true since they want to do the deal.

The U.S. Government owns 74% of Ally and is offering to put up $750 Million to cover liabilities relating to mortgages. Why would the bank have liabilities? Because the loans don’t exist or are grossly overvalued and Ally and others shared in tier 2 yield spread premiums that were fraudulently taken from investor money to buy other investments for the banks including insurance payable to the banks and credit default swaps payable to the banks even though the banks were not putting up one nickle and were using the same system of fabrication and forgery to fool counterparties on guarantees of the loan pools which, it turns out, didn’t exist.

Dozens of writers including myself have looked at the settlements with law enforcement and regulatory agencies screaming that the settlements are rounding errors compared with the full scope of the fraud used to promote and cover-up the Wall Street Bank Ponzi scheme. We are ignored. But now the real creditors and the people who really lost money — the investors — are starting to peak under the hood of the brand new car they bought and are finding the shell of a 1965 VW bug with no engine or steering wheel.

They don’t like what they see and they want to know (a) where did all that money go if it didn’t go into mortgages and (b) why isn’t the government or Ally stepping up, facing the music and agreeing to cover the liability and losses that are already in the pipeline and likely to get much much larger as the next five years unfolds.

Unfortunately for Ally and the U.S. Government, the creditors are not stupid and unsophisticated. They understand what happened and are completely unwilling to cover losses that the banks caused by stealing money. For this one company, Ally Financial, whose size is barely comparable to the giants on Wall Street who engineered this catastrophe, Rescap and the other creditors say that the $750 million offer is “a drop in the bucket” compared to the actual liabilities and losses of Ally.

(Small wonder that the shadow banking system has over $700 trillion in nominal value cash equivalents that are not worth much more than $15 trillion. Every dollar reported on those instruments in the shadow banking system is rife with potential liabilities several times the reported value of the instrument.)

So finally we have a bankruptcy court examiner auditing the transaction and accounts and rendering a report in May, 2013. The report is likely to be stunning and will have far reaching effects as the asset side of the balance sheet of Ally drops to a small fraction of what is currently reported. It won’t take more than a few seconds for the high speed traders to crash the stocks of the Wall Street Banks because the accounting for non-existing and overvalued assets on their balance sheets is just as bad or worse than Ally.

And all of that adds up to a reasoning process that takes time, explanation and sometimes crayons in court to get across tot he Judge. The DESCRIBED debt never existed because the “lender” was actually a naked nominee just like all the other naked nominees in the whole mortgage meltdown. When the time comes that the pretender lenders are required to produce cancelled checks and wire transfer receipts and instructions it will be obvious that the paper in the securitization chains is worthless or worse carrying liabilities for fraud and statutory violations. It will be equally obvious that the subservicers, master servicers, trustees of empty pools, and others created an illusion that worked, receiving trillions of dollars in insurance type contracts on transactions that never occurred.

The true transaction is the one where investors gave money to borrowers and the the borrowers agreed to pay it back either under the terms of the note, the terms of the bond or some combination of the two. That loan is NOT secured but was intended to be secured by both the actual lender (investors) and the actual borrower (the homeowners). 

On the other hand neither the lender nor the borrower ever intended to do a deal that was guaranteed to fail — and that would have required true appraisals and true prices that were dead even with the actual value of the property — i.e. if the true value of the property was used, there would have no no crash, the loans would have been smaller and the ability to repay the loans would have been correspondingly enhanced.

In a giant piece of irony, realtors are complaining that appraisers are holding up deals (the way they should have during he mortgage meltdown period) with appraisals that don’t add up to the contract price. In the old days that was it — either the buyer came up with more cash, the seller reduced the price or the bank relented after being given additional collateral. Usually it was some combination of those factors.

By ANDREW R. JOHNSON, Wall Street Journal

Negotiations are breaking down between creditors of bankrupt mortgage lender Residential Capital LLC and its parent, Ally Financial Inc., making it likely the government-owned auto-finance company will face litigation as it seeks to sever ties, people familiar with the matter said.

The creditors, including Wilmington Trust Corp. and other members of a committee representing ResCap’s unsecured creditors, are pushing Ally to provide more money to settle potential liabilities it could face as ResCap’s parent.

Ally, which is 74%-owned by the U.S. government, is working to cap its exposure to the subprime lender’s mortgage business so it can move forward on efforts to repay its $17.2 billion crisis-era bailout and focus on its core auto-lending and online-banking businesses.

At issue is a settlement Ally reached last year with ResCap in conjunction with the mortgage subsidiary’s bankruptcy filing. Under the deal, Ally has proposed paying $750 million to ResCap’s estate in return for a release from potential liability claims from outsiders.

But creditors have blasted the deal, saying the $750 million represents a drop in the bucket compared with what they say are Ally’s true liabilities. They say the parent company stripped ResCap of its most valuable asset, an ownership stake in Ally Bank, as part of a transaction completed in 2009. They insist Ally should retroactively pay more for the deal, among other claims.

A bankruptcy court examiner is investigating that transaction as well as others surrounding ResCap’s May Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The examiner’s report is expected to be completed in May.

“There is no support among the constituencies for the proposed amount of the Ally contribution because the amount is far too small in comparison to the value of the claims that have been and may be asserted against Ally,” Wilmington Trust, a unit of M&T Bank Corp., MTB -0.44% said in a letter to ResCap’s board this month. Wilmington said the negotiation process for the settlement was “rife with conflicts and information gaps.”

See full article at ResCap Creditors Press Ally for Larger Pact

It’s Not Even a Bubble: Foreclosures on the Rise

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Editor’s Comment: Realtors and Banks want you to think that you need to buy now before the  market takes off and prices spiral upward. I say don’t believe a word of it.

If you are buying to live in a house, you should know that the actual and shadow inventory of foreclosures will keep intense downward pressure on housing prices for many years to come. Some estimates, including mine, are that the housing market might take more than 10 years to recover and that it could be as much as 20 years. This is why so many people are renting rather than buying. Rental values are going up because there is actual demand for renting.

If you are buying for investment, see the above paragraph. You might have a viable investment if you are willing to stay in for the long pull and you are willing to take on the duties and obligations of a landlord.

If you are selling and you are waiting for the market to bottom out, or maybe you see a spike and you think you’ll wait just a little bit longer to get a higher price, forget it. Sellers, as realtors will even tell you, are mostly unrealistic about the sales price of their property. This is because they bought or once saw the price of their property at twice the price as the offers now. The reason is simple — prices went up but values stayed the same or even declined. The difference between prices and values has never been as big a deal as it is now.

Prices can be forced up by actual demand but never as much as we saw from the late 90’s to the peak at 2006. The prices went up because the payments went down or appeared to go down.

Free money was everywhere and nobody was reading the fine print or even questioning why Banks would offer such deals as teaser rates and other nonsensical things to entice people into signing up for mortgages, whose payment would eventually rise above their household income or where the payment was the equivalent of doubling the interest rate because they were going to be sitting with a home that declined to its real value.

The truth is that even if a recovery eventually occurs, it will be 20+ years before we see those prices again. And that will only result from inflation which eventually will pick up steam.

And by all means remember what I have been writing about these last few weeks. The title they are offering you, with a deed signed by a bank, or even a satisfaction of mortgage signed by a bank may not be worth the paper it is written on and the title policy normally excludes that sort of risk from what they  are covering in title insurance. So if you don’t pose the hard questions and negotiate a real title policy that covers all the known risks, you could be the angry owner of a white elephant that cannot be sold later nor refinanced.

From CNBC:

Home prices rose, just barely, in the second quarter of this year annually for the first time since 2007, according to online real estate firm Zillow. That prompted the popular site to call a “bottom” to home prices nationally. The increase was a mere 0.2 percent, but in today’s touch and go housing recovery, that was enough.

Nearly one third of the 167 markets Zillow tracks in this survey saw annual price gains from a year ago.

“After four months with rising home values and increasingly positive forecast data, it seems clear that the country has hit a bottom in home values,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “The housing recovery is holding together despite lower-than-expected job growth, indicating that it has some organic strength of its own.”

Zillow’s report, which compares prices of homes sold in the same neighborhood, also showed a stronger 2.1 percent gain quarter to quarter, which is the biggest uptick since 2005. The biggest price gains, however, are in the markets that saw the biggest price drops during the latest housing crash. Phoenix, for example, saw a 12 percent annual price gain on the Zillow index.

That has other analysts claiming that the overall surge in national prices is due to price bubbles in certain markets.

“Strong demand, particularly in areas of California, Arizona and Nevada, are pushing up home prices very quickly in the short-term. And because many of the home purchases in these areas are cash transactions, there appears to be less braking of prices by our current appraisal system than seen in other parts of the country,” noted Thomas Popik, research director for Campbell Surveys and chief analyst for HousingPulse. “The trend raises the distinct possibility of housing price bubbles emerging in some of these hot housing markets.”

The supply of foreclosed properties for sale has been dropping steadily, as lenders try to modify more loans or actively pursue foreclosure alternatives, like short sales (where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage). Investors, eager to take advantage of the hot rental market, are having to spread out to more markets in order to find the best deals.

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“We were heavily into Phoenix early in the cycle. Those markets are heating up,” said James Breitenstein, CEO of investment firm Landsmith in an interview on CNBC Monday. “We see a shift more to the east, states like North Carolina, Michigan, Florida.”

While home prices on the Zillow index are improving most in formerly distressed markets, like Miami, Orlando and much of California, they are still dropping in other non-distressed markets, like St. Louis (down 4 percent annually) Chicago (down 5.8 percent annually) and Philadelphia (down 3.5 percent annually).

“Those people looking at current results and calling a bottom are being dangerously short-sighted,” said Michael Feder, CEO of Radar Logic, a real estate data and analytics company. “Not only are the immediate signs inconclusive, but the broad dynamics are still quite scary. We think housing is still a short.”

Radar Logic sees price increases as well, but blames that on mild winter weather that temporarily boosted demand. This means there will be payback, or weakness in prices during the latter half of this year. And even without the weather hypothesis, they see further trouble ahead:

“On the supply side, higher prices will entice financial institutions to sell more of their inventories of foreclosed homes and allow households that were previously unable to sell due to negative equity to put their homes on the market. As a result, the supply of homes for sale will increase, placing downward pressure on prices. On the demand side, rising prices could reduce investment buying,” according to the Radar Logic report.

Investors are driving much of the housing market today, anywhere from one third to one quarter of home sales. That makes these supposedly national price gains more precarious than ever, because they are based on a finite supply of distressed homes and that supply is dependent on the nation’s big banks. First time home buyers, who should be 40 percent of the market, are barely making up one third, and millions of potential move-up buyers are trapped in their homes due to negative and near negative equity.

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Homeowner Associations On the Attack, As Predicted Here

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Editor’s Comment:  Thousands of homeowner associations are filing foreclosure actions on banks owning property that are not paying the monthly assessments or special assessments. We’ve written about this before and encouraged the associations to do so.

The irony is very interesting here. The Banks, having never funded a loan and never purchased a loan, managed to foreclose a loan they never had and get title, possession and even eviction if the rightful homeowner failed to leave as ordered by the bogus pretender lender. Now they must pay the taxes, insurance, and maintain the place as it is written in the Declaration of Condominium, or Community restrictions. AND they must pay monthly “Dues” or assessments as well as special assessments.

So that free house the bank got by submitting a credit bid even though they were never the creditor and never had the right to call themselves a creditor, and even though the debt was either unsecured or paid off, now they re suddenly required to pay the piper.

After all, they say they are the homeowner now. So the banks, knowing this would happen have transferred title into “bankruptcy remote vehicles” which are in fact vehicles for avoiding creditors. A transfer in fraud of creditors is intended to be prosecuted by the Association or any other person effected and the association this time is neither intimidated nor unwilling to press their claim. These are the same banks that decimated their neighborhood. The battle is on.

I wonder how this disclosed to Canadian and other investors who think they are getting clear title? This is only one of several reasons why they are getting clouded title — the pendency of assessments.

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Pensions to Be Slashed By Fake Losses on Mortgage Bonds

 

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Editor’s Comment:  

Many of the most conservative, pro-business people who think they escaped the travesty of the mortgage scam and meltdown are in for a big surprise starting this year. Pension funds were the investors. And they lost big. In some cases the fund managers were in bed with the investment bankers who were peddling this crap.

If you read the Wall Street Journal they explain how the already underfunded pension funds (due to accounting tricks that were illegal and then made legal) are now unable to escape the reality admitting the losses being pitched over the fence at them by investment bankers who are rolling in money from bailouts, insurance (that should have paid the pension fund), credit default swaps (that should have paid the pension fund).

Deep in the articles is a description of exactly what is happening in simple math terms. That description applies equally to the intentionally manipulated underwriting standards to assure the loans would fail. If you or I did this, we would be in jail. Instead Jamie Dimon sits on the Board of the New York Fed. what a country. Millions of people are thrown out of their homes, cities and counties go bankrupt, most from mythical losses they don’t understand.

It all comes from what are called yield spreads, premiums and losses from changes in yield. Under normal protocol investors protect themselves by using various hedge products.

But the investment bankers didn’t make the investors the beneficiary of those hedges, they made themselves the beneficiaries instead. Since they were the agents of the investors they should and still can be forced to apply those proceeds, and pay them to the pension funds, which in turn will reduce the amount due under each loan that was funded.

Sources tell me that not only are the pension funds being forced to accept losses on loans they never owned until it was time to foreclose, but that some of the “bets” that went bad are being tacked on as additional fees or losses.

The pension funds are therefore suffering from two huge write-downs — one from the change in accounting rules that allowed them to kick the can down the road (passed 30+ Years ago), and the other from losses that don’t actually exist but were convenient for the banks to assert when they asked for bailouts.

Pension funds become underfunded automatically when the interest and dividends they get paid shrink. In order to bring up income they need to invest more. Neither the companies nor the pensioners are doing that so there is a shortfall. So when interest rates go down, someone must invest more money to earn the interest required to pay to the pensioners. Nobody is making that investment.

Example: If interest rates were 6% when the pension funds made commitments to retiring employees and the amount of money promised those retiring employees just happened to be $60,000, the pension fund would need $1 million invested (over simplifying by taking out amortization of principal). If interest rates fall to 3%, then the $1 million fund is only getting $30,000 per year. In order to raise it back up to $60,000 per year, the fund needs $2 million invested at 3% to stay fully funded. Without additional contribution, there is a $1 million shortfall.

Right now interest rates, manipulated as they are have never been lower which means that pension funds are getting less income than they were getting before, and since nobody is putting in more money to cover the difference the pension fund is underfunded.

When pension funds must declare the losses on mortgage bonds they will be far more underfunded than currently appears and the amount received by each pensioner will be slashed. Say thank you to Wall Street for that.

Curious coincidence: This same analysis applies to the tier 2 yield spread premium grabbed by the investment bank under false pretenses from investors. For purposes of this article you can spell investor as “Pension Fund.”

When the fund manager for the pension fund gave the investment banker $1 million in our example above, he was expecting a 6% return on investment.

But in the most unbridled breach of trust ever recorded in Wall Street history, the investment banker instead invested half the money at twice the rate.

So they only funded $500,000 in “mortgage” loans carrying a nominal interest rate of 12%, even though they had received $1 million and they pocketed the other $500,000 as “trading profits.”Anyone with any investment knowledge understands that this was (1) an immediate loss of $500,000 to the investor (Pension Fund) and (2) a probable loss of the other $500,000 or most of it after the obvious market crash this would cause.

Of course the people accepting those 12% loans were extremely poor credit risks and were literally guaranteed to default.

So Wall Street took the other half of the money they stole from the pension fund, unknown to the pension fund manager, and bet against the mortgages that were underwritten.

Instead of making the pension fund the beneficiary of that protection the investment banker made himself the beneficiary of the insurance, hedge or credit default swap.

And instead of informing the pension fund manager of the loss in a report in which the fund manager could detect what was really happening, the banks announced that the BANKS had suffered trillions of dollars in losses that never happened except in the mythical world of “cash equivalent” derivatives.

So if you are looking for the rest of your pension income you were promised, you can find it on Wall Street.

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Judge Bashes Bank in Foreclosure Case: “Criminal Probe in Florida.”

Judge Bashes Bank and Stern Law Firm in Foreclosure Case

By AMIR EFRATI

A Florida state-court judge, in a rare ruling, said a major national bank perpetrated a “fraud” in a foreclosure lawsuit, raising questions about how banks are attempting to claim homes from borrowers in default.

The ruling, made last month in Pasco County, Fla., comes amid increased scrutiny of foreclosures by the prosecutors and judges in regions hurt by the recession. Judges have said in hearings they are increasingly concerned that banks are attempting to seize properties they don’t own.

The Florida case began in December 2007 when U.S. Bank N.A. sued a homeowner, Ernest E. Harpster, after he defaulted on a $190,000 loan he received in January of that year.

The Law Offices of David J. Stern, which represented the bank, prepared a document called an “assignment of mortgage” showing that the bank received ownership of the mortgage in December 2007. The document was dated December 2007.

But after investigating the matter, Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper ruled that the document couldn’t have been prepared until 2008. Thus, she ruled, the bank couldn’t prove it owned the mortgage at the time the suit was filed.

The document filed by the plaintiff, Judge Tepper wrote last month, “did not exist at the time of the filing of this action…was subsequently created and…fraudulently backdated, in a purposeful, intentional effort to mislead.” She dismissed the case.

Forrest McSurdy, a lawyer at the David Stern firm that handled the U.S. Bank case, said the mistake was due to “carelessness.” The mortgage document was initially prepared and signed in 2007 but wasn’t notarized until months later, he said. After discovering similar problems in other foreclosure cases, he said, the firm voluntarily withdrew the suits and later re-filed them using appropriate documents.

“Judges get in a whirl about technicalities because the courts are overwhelmed,” he said. “The merits of the cases are the same: people aren’t paying their mortgages.”

Steve Dale, a spokesman for U.S. Bank, said the company played a passive role in the matter because it represents investors who own a mortgage-securities trust that includes the Harpster loan. He said a division of Wells Fargo & Co., which collected payments from Mr. Harpster, initiated the foreclosure on behalf of the investors.

Wells Fargo said in a statement it “does not condone, accept, nor instruct counsel to take actions such as those taken in this case.” The company said it was “troubled” by the “conclusions the Court found as to the actions of this foreclosure attorney. We will review these circumstances closely and take appropriate action as necessary.”

Since the housing crisis began several years ago, judges across the U.S. have found that documents submitted by banks to support foreclosure claims were wrong. Mistakes by banks and their representatives have also led to an ongoing federal criminal probe in Florida.

Some of the problems stem from the difficulty banks face in proving they own the loans, thanks to the complexity of the mortgage market.

The Florida ruling against U.S. Bank was also a critique of law firms that handle foreclosure cases on behalf of banks, dubbed “foreclosure mills.”

Lawyers operating foreclosure mills often are paid based on the volume of cases they complete. Some receive $1,000 per case, court records show. Firms compete for business in part based on how quickly they can foreclose. The David Stern firm had about 900 employees as of last year, court records show.

“The pure volume of foreclosures has a tendency perhaps to encourage sloppiness, boilerplate paperwork or a lack of thoroughness” by attorneys for banks, said Judge Tepper of Florida, in an interview. The deluge of foreclosures makes the process “fraught with potential for fraud,” she said.

At an unrelated hearing in a separate matter last week, Anthony Rondolino, a state-court judge in St. Petersburg, Fla., said that an affidavit submitted by the David Stern law firm on behalf of GMAC Mortgage LLC in a foreclosure case wasn’t necessarily sufficient to establish that GMAC was the owner of the mortgage.

“I don’t have any confidence that any of the documents the Court’s receiving on these mass foreclosures are valid,” the judge said at the hearing.

A spokesman for GMAC declined to comment and a lawyer at the David Stern firm declined to comment.

Write to Amir Efrati at amir.efrati@wsj.com

U.S. Starts Criminal Probe of Lender Processing Services Inc. Foreclosure-Data Provider

The case follows on the dismissal of numerous foreclosure cases in which judges across the U.S. have found that the materials banks had submitted to support their claims were wrong. Faulty bank paperwork has been an issue in foreclosure proceedings since the housing crisis took hold a few years ago. It is often difficult to pin down who the real owner of a mortgage is, thanks to the complexity of the mortgage market.

the majority of foreclosures go unchallenged, some homeowners have won the right to keep their homes by proving the bank couldn’t show, on paper, that it owned the mortgage.

[LPS a/k/a DOCX] produces documents needed by banks to prove they own the mortgages. LPS’s annual report said that the processes under review have been “terminated,” and that the company has expressed its willingness to cooperate. Ms. Kersch declined to comment further on the probe.

Editor’s Note: The executive branch is finally becoming involved. The foreclosure mills have been producing dubious and/or fraudulent, fabricated, forged documentation for 3 years or more. Some of these foreclosure mills are operating in the same office and owned by the law firms prosecuting foreclosures. Maybe sooner than later these unethical, illegal practices will stop and the people responsible will be prosecuted for criminal violations, civil fines, and administrative grievances in which their licenses will be revoked.

But in the end we still have millions of homes whose title is at least clouded, probably defective and will soon become unmarketable as title companies realize the issues presented by fraudulent foreclosures by entities other than the creditor.

Wall Street Journal

April 3, 2010

U.S. Probes Foreclosure-Data Provider

Lender Processing Services Unit Draws Inquiry Over the Steps That Led to Faulty Bank Paperwork

By AMIR EFRATI and CARRICK MOLLENKAMP

A subsidiary of a company that is a top provider of the documentation used by banks in the foreclosure process is under investigation by federal prosecutors.

The prosecutors are “reviewing the business processes” of the subsidiary of Lender Processing Services Inc., based in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the company’s annual securities filing released in February. People familiar with the matter say the probe is criminal in nature.

Michelle Kersch, an LPS spokeswoman, said the subsidiary being investigated is Docx LLC. Docx processes and sometimes produces documents needed by banks to prove they own the mortgages. LPS’s annual report said that the processes under review have been “terminated,” and that the company has expressed its willingness to cooperate. Ms. Kersch declined to comment further on the probe.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the middle district of Florida, which the annual report says is handling the matter, declined to comment.

The case follows on the dismissal of numerous foreclosure cases in which judges across the U.S. have found that the materials banks had submitted to support their claims were wrong. Faulty bank paperwork has been an issue in foreclosure proceedings since the housing crisis took hold a few years ago. It is often difficult to pin down who the real owner of a mortgage is, thanks to the complexity of the mortgage market.

During the housing boom, mortgages were originated by lenders, quickly sold to Wall Street firms that bundled them into debt pools and then sold to investors as securities. The loans were supposed to change hands but the documents and contracts between borrowers and lenders often weren’t altered to show changes in ownership, judges have ruled.

Related Documents

Documents processed by LPS that said an entity called “Bogus Assignee” owned the mortgage:

That has made it hard for banks, which act on behalf of mortgage-securities investors in most foreclosure cases, to prove they own the loans in some instances.

LPS has said its software is used by banks to track the majority of U.S. residential mortgages from the time they are originated until the debt is satisfied or a borrower defaults. When a borrower defaults and a bank needs to foreclose, LPS helps process paperwork the bank uses in court.

LPS was recently referenced in a bankruptcy case involving Sylvia Nuer, a Bronx, N.Y., homeowner who had filed for protection from creditors in 2008.

Diana Adams, a U.S. government lawyer who monitors bankruptcy courts, argued in a brief filed earlier this year in the Nuer case that an LPS employee signed a document that wrongly said J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. had owned Ms. Nuer’s loan.

Documents related to the loan were “patently false or misleading,” according to Ms. Adams’s court papers. J.P. Morgan Chase, which has withdrawn its request to foreclose, declined to comment.

Linda Tirelli, a lawyer for Ms. Nuer, declined to comment directly on the case.

Ms. Kersch said LPS didn’t actually create the document and that the company’s “sole connection to this case is that our technology and services were utilized by J.P. Morgan Chase and its counsel.”

While the majority of foreclosures go unchallenged, some homeowners have won the right to keep their homes by proving the bank couldn’t show, on paper, that it owned the mortgage.

Some lawyers representing homeowners have claimed that banks routinely file erroneous paperwork showing they have a right to foreclose when they don’t.

Firms that process the paperwork are either “producing so many documents per day that nobody is reviewing anything, even to make sure they have the names right, or you’ve got some massive software problem,” said O. Max Gardner, a consumer-bankruptcy attorney in Shelby N.C., who has defended clients against foreclosure actions.

The wave of foreclosures and housing crisis appears to have helped LPS. According to the annual securities filing, foreclosure-related revenue was $1.1 billion last year compared with $473 million in 2007.

LPS has acknowledged problems in its paperwork. In its annual securities filing, in which it disclosed the federal probe, the company said it had found “an error” in how Docx handled notarization of some documents. Docx also has processed documents used in courts that incorrectly claimed an entity called “Bogus Assignee” was the owner of the loan, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Kersch said the “bogus” phrase was used as a placeholder. “Unfortunately, on a few occasions, the document was inadvertently recorded before the field was updated,” she said.

Write to Amir Efrati at amir.efrati@wsj.com and Carrick Mollenkamp at carrick.mollenkamp@wsj.com

Funny Thing About Trust and Credibility

Editor’s Note: business seems more concrete and logical than say, religion. But the truth is that all of finance and the economy is based upon three things: (1) trust, (2) credibility and (3) belief.

Example: If you believed that the U.S. Dollar was going to be worthless (as has happened in our history) would you believe it is worth anything? Obviously not. would you take it for payment? Obviously not. Then why are we expecting any long-term solution to come out of our current policy of pretending that the banks did ANYTHING right? The world is waiting for an answer.

U.S> domestic and foreign policy is restricted by the resentment arising from the act of financial terrorism that was perpetrated by a select few on wall Street. Our financial sector continues to drag down the sparkling image of the the U.S. as the world’s engine of growth and democracy.

The second part is worse than the first. With median incomes continuing to decline the price of housing will also continue to decline. Wealth will continue to vanish — even amongst those who owns and rents property to others. If they can’t get a monthly rental equal to their payments, strategic defaults like Stuyvesant will become common place putting even more housing in disrepair.

The simple truth is that we continue to pretend. It is a fairy tale that we have enough money to buy our way out of this and a continuing lie for us to continue to allow companies, banks, lenders, pretender lenders and others report earnings and assets they don’t have. The “equity” is gone.

The value of the mortgage backed securities is, in my opinion, zero unless some fair system of distributing the wealth is worked out after clawing back all those illegal profits. double undisclosed yield spread premiums and collections on insurance where the beneficiary was not the one who had lost any money. Fair market valuation is the only answer across the board.

Only when we transparently report that some very big companies are actually broke and only when we return the bottom half of the country to some sort of normalcy will we have a foundation for recovery.

Will We Ever Again Trust Wall Street?

by Jason Zweig
Monday, February 8, 2010

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For many investors, the market’s turbulence hasn’t just destroyed wealth. It has shattered their faith in the financial system itself. Consider Philip Eberlin, 56 years old, who runs a woodwork-restoration business in Chicago Heights, Ill. Trading hot stocks a decade ago, Mr. Eberlin got burned on picks like Krispy Kreme and Tyco. In 2007 he got back into stocks, only to take another hit.

Having been burned twice in 10 years,” says Mr. Eberlin, he now has about 80% of his family’s assets   protected from the market” in certificates of deposit and fixed annuities. “I don’t have trust in Wall Street to help the small investor in any way, shape or form.” Mr. Eberlin isn’t alone. Late last year, Decision Research of Eugene, Ore., asked Americans how much they trusted bankers and other Wall Street leaders “to reduce the risk of the financial challenges the country is facing now.” On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning no trust at all, the rating averaged a paltry 1.7.

With such a loss of faith, how will companies be able to obtain the capital they need to expand? The foundations of the financial markets ultimately rest upon the confidence of mom-and-pop investors across the country.  But every investor has a fundamental need to believe that the world is just—that good people are ultimately rewarded, that bad people are eventually punished and that the system isn’t rigged to favor an undeserving few. This belief in a just world is partly delusional; most of us realize that nice guys often finish last. But this delusion makes short-term setbacks endurable. “A belief that the world is fair and predictable is necessary in order for people to delay gratification and to make investments that will pay off in the long run,” says James Olson, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario.

So when bad things happen, “people often prefer to blame themselves rather than believe they live in a chaotic and unjust world,” says Dale Miller, a psychology professor at Stanford University.After tech stocks crashed in 2000-2001, for instance, many investors kicked themselves for taking foolish risks. This time around, however, many investors who followed the best advice were punished the worst. Someone who held a total-stock-market index fund lost more than 58% from October 2007 through March 2009 and remains 31% behind even after last year’s recovery.

These people can’t blame themselves; they did as they had been told. Meanwhile, they watched Wall Street firms parcel out billions in bonuses. I believe the old truths remain valid: Buying and holding a diversified stock portfolio still makes sense. Paradoxically, as fewer people cling to their faith in traditional stock investing, the future rewards from it are likely to grow greater. But that can take time. In 1952, two full decades after the Great Crash hit bottom, only 19% of wealthy Americans regarded stocks as the wisest investment choice, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Most investors thus sat out the great bull market of the 1950s, when stocks gained 19.4% annually.

How can faith be restored?  Wall Street firms need to be forthright in admitting their shortcomings. The more they protest their innocence, the more they make the typical investor feel that the financial world is unjust. The Pecora hearings, held in the U.S. Senate in the 1930s, served partly as a form of public expiation, in which Wall Street’s leaders apologized for their firms’ conduct. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, formed by Congress in 2009 and now holding its own hearings, may help investors feel that Wall Street can own up to its mistakes. Finally, financial advisers need to be much less dogmatic and confident in their predictions. By admitting the extent of their own ignorance today, they would help prevent investors from feeling railroaded tomorrow.

Mortgage Meltdown: JUNK SALE

In both cases — housing prices and CDO/CMO prices, there was no intervening factor that caused the decline. No meteor hit the earth, no world war broke out, no material event occurred to account for these changes. It is therefore impossible to come to any conclusion except that the fair market values of the houses and the CDO/CMO market were falsely represented in a systematic, intentional manner. 

 

Any remedy for this situation must first address that basic fact before moving on to anything else. Addressing the valuation issue allows all the other pieces to fall into place. In the interest of preserving U.S. sovereignty and the American lifestyle, we have proposed here amnesty for everyone, showing favoritism to nobody. Everyone must share in the loss. And everyone must participate in the recovery. But in all cases it starts with ending the foreclosures and ending the evictions.  

 

Anyone can go to www.wsj.com and see a multitude of articles on the effects and causes of the mortgage meltdown. You don’t have to be a subscriber to see the first page. It all boils down to finger pointing and a series of tricks that are being played out to stretch out the effects of the meltdown and avoid an economic collapse. Periodically G7 or its equivalent has met and historically come to some agreement to prop up or devalue the U.S. currency. This weekend they won’t prop it up yet, which pretty much means that the junk sale includes our beloved American dollar.

 

While the effort to stem the effect of the mortgage meltdown is a worthwhile endeavor, and spreading out the losses over a larger period of time is also a good idea to provide breathing room from a panic and collapse, the methods being employed are contrary to common sense, and are so out of balance that they are contributing to a collapse of larger proportions. It is a “NEXT BUBBLE” strategy. The overall effect will be to increase government and personal debt, increase the number of derivatives on the market, increase the effect of private companies on money supply, increase inflation, decrease employment in the U.S., decrease the financial resources of every household, decrease quality of life ands standard of living for the American Citizen, increase stress on the lower and middle class,  and thus continue the pattern of crating ever larger bubbles to cover up the last one. 

 

Our economic policies have been, continue to be and will apparently be maintained despite adherence to what is clearly a massive Ponzi scheme, illegally depriving the American Citizen of property, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness all without any real notice to the public and obviously without the coveted due process of law required by our constitution. 

 

When you tally up the the various costs and expenses that have been socialized (including the bailouts of corporations and financial institutions for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many), the intentional devaluing of the dollar, and all of the other expenses that are charged “privately” (PRIVATE TAXATION) and add in the excise, sales and other taxes that people pay in addition to property, income and other standard revenue-producers for government, you can easily see that the effective tax rate on American Citizens is the highest in the world. It is masked by calling the taxes different things and spreading the imposition of taxes through channels of private companies. You need not be an economist to prove this. At the end of the month, citizens of much “poorer” countries have more money and less debt than we do. It’s basic arithmetic not advanced economic theory. 

 

Nowhere on top of the political agenda, is there any hope of widespread relief for everyone who fell victim to falsely inflated property values — including the homeowners who were tricked into signing papers based upon the apparent condition of the market, the appraisal of the property, the rating of the securities, the underwriting risk (none) of the lender. 

 

What home buyer would have closed the deal if they knew that the lender was not taking any risk, that the appraiser was validating a price based upon economic incentive rather than fundamentals, and that the mortgage broker and lender had no interest in protecting the buyer even though they were bound by law to do so? Nobody.

 

What investor would have purchased a collateralized mortgage obligation if he knew that the rating agency had issued ratings based upon negotiation and relationship with the issuer? Nobody.

 

Without tricking everyone who bought a home between 2001 and 2007 into believing the values were real, the scheme would not have worked. Now these people who bought those homes are seeing their largest investment, and in many cases, their only investment, pulled out from under them, while they are pulled out from having a roof over their heads, and remaining more deeply in debt than before the transactions started. 

 

Without addressing the needs of these people by stopping foreclosures and stopping evictions, the problem will not end, — it will simply grow larger. Yet in true form most legislators and many Americans take up the “conservative” position that these people should have known better. Exactly how would they have known better when the essential information was being withheld from them and the government was lying, along with the industry participants, about the key factor in the real estate market: fair market value. THIS IS NOT ABOUT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, IT’S ABOUT FRAUD.

 

Without tricking investors to buy these derivative securities through again falsely creating the illusion of fair market value and quality, the scheme would not have worked because the risk would have fallen on the perpetrators on Wall Street instead of the governments, pension funds, and other investors who bought them. 

 

Without addressing the needs of the investors who were duped, and the reducing the impact of various investment decisions and flows of money that ran down stream from those investments, no solution can stem the tide of inflation, dollar devaluation, and economic collapse in the the U.S. And yes this means preserving the channels of market liquidity that precipitated this crisis. We need them even if right now we don’t like them. Wall Street should get a pass on consequences but not on future regulation.

 

Again common sense proves it without being a lawyer, economist or accountant. How could the housing prices have dropped so suddenly if they were really worth the values that were published? In some cases, the effect was seen within days or weeks of the closing. This is not the commodities market. It is the real estate market where the volatility index has always been low. 

 

And again, without being an expert, how could the same “investment” instruments be rated at AAA one minute and unrated the next?

 

In both cases — housing prices and CDO/CMO prices, there was no intervening factor that caused the decline. No meteor hit the earth, no world war broke out, no material event occurred to account for these changes. It is therefore impossible to come to any conclusion except that the fair market values of the houses and the CDO/CMO market were falsely represented in a systematic, intentional manner. 

 

Any remedy for this situation must first address that basic fact before moving on to anything else. Addressing the valuation issue allows all the other pieces to fall into place. In the interest of preserving U.S. sovereignty and the American lifestyle, we have proposed here amnesty for everyone, showing favoritism to nobody. Everyone must share in the loss. And everyone must participate in the recovery. But in all cases it starts with ending the foreclosures and ending the evictions.  

 

From the new “Freedom” aggregation of Lehman Brothers, to the other new derivative securities created for the purpose of hiding the blow-out, the Federal Reserve is converting itself from the lender of last resort to the investor of last resort. Buried on page 14 of the WSJ, — The Senate has created a bill that rewards buyers of distressed homes with a tax credit. Bear Stearns was bailed out by the Fed with a windfall profit potential to the people who helped create this mess. The bad paper that has been circulated is being repackaged and recirculated with the complicity of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and all of the major players in the world of financial institutions. 

 

It’s a junk sale, where non-investment grade securities are being rated as investment grade by Moody’s and other rating agencies. These agencies are competing for “market share” and have succumbed to the pressures of the marketplace — thus abdicating their responsibility for independent analysis and entering into negotiations and friendly deals with the “clients” whose securities they are rating. 

 

The fact that these people go fishing together and are building “relationships, we are told, has not compromised the independence of these “auditors” of investment quality. If accountants did these things they would lose their licenses and maybe go to jail. But when rating agencies do it — and do far more damage than any bad report issued by an accounting firm — it’s the “marketplace.” And the free marketing ideologues continue to push the agenda of controlled markets through the utility of calling it “free markets.”  

 

What we have here is an invisible hand, but not the invisible hand of free market balancing that Adam Smith was talking about. We have instead the invisible hand and the free hands of government and private enterprise conspiring to defraud the world around them. 

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