Foreclosures on Nonexistent Mortgages

I have frequently commented that one of the first things I learned on Wall Street was the maxim that the more complicated the “product” the more the buyer is forced to rely on the seller for information. Michael Lewis, in his new book, focuses on high frequency trading — a term that is not understood by most people, even if they work on Wall Street. The way it works is that the computers are able to sort out buy or sell orders, aggregate them and very accurately predict an uptick or down-tick in a stock or bond.

Then the same investment bank that is taking your order to buy or sell submits its own order ahead of yours. They are virtually guaranteed a profit, at your expense, although the impact on individual investors is small. Aggregating those profits amounts to a private tax on large and small investors amounting to billions of dollars, according to Lewis and I agree.

As Lewis points out, the trader knows nothing about what happens after they place an order. And it is the complexity of technology and practices that makes Wall Street behavior so opaque — clouded in a veil of secrecy that is virtually impenetrable to even the regulators. That opacity first showed up decades ago as Wall Street started promoting increasing complex investments. Eventually they evolved to collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) and those evolved into what became known as the mortgage crisis.

in the case of mortgage CDO’s, once again the investors knew nothing about what happened after they placed their order and paid for it. Once again, the Wall Street firms were one step ahead of them, claiming ownership of (1) the money that investors paid, (2) the mortgage bonds the investors thought they were buying and (3) the loans the investors thought were being financed through REMIC trusts that issued the mortgage bonds.

Like high frequency trading, the investor receives a report that is devoid of any of the details of what the investment bank actually did with their money, when they bought or originated a mortgage, through what entity,  for how much and what terms. The blending of millions of mortgages enabled the investment banks to create reports that looked good but completely hid the vulnerability of the investors, who were continuing to buy mortgage bonds based upon those reports.

The truth is that in most cases the investment banks took the investors money and didn’t follow any of the rules set forth in the CDO documents — but used those documents when it suited them to make even more money, creating the illusion that loans had been securitized when in fact the securitization vehicle (REMIC Trust) had been completely ignored.

There were several scenarios under which property and homeowners were made vulnerable to foreclosure even if they had no mortgage on their property. A recent story about an elderly couple coming “home” to find their door padlocked, possessions removed and then the devastating news that their home had been sold at foreclosure auction is an example of the extreme risk of this system to ALL homeowners, whether they have or had a mortgage or not. This particular couple had paid off their mortgage 15 years ago. The bank who foreclosed on the nonexistent mortgage and the recovery company that invaded their home said it was a mistake. Their will be a confidential settlement where once again the veil of secrecy will be raised.

That type of “mistake” was a once in a million possibility before Wall Street directly entered the mortgage loan business. So why have we read so many stories about foreclosures where there was no mortgage, or was no default, or where the mortgage loan was with someone other than the party who foreclosed?

The answer lies in how these properties enter the system. When a bank sells its portfolio of loans into the system of aggregation of loans, they might accidentally or intentionally include loans for which they had already received full payment. Maybe they issued a satisfaction maybe they didn’t. It might also include loans where life insurance or PMI paid off the loan.

Or, as is frequently the case, the “loan” was sold after the homeowner was merely investigating the possibility of a mortgage or reverse mortgage. As soon as they made application, since approval was certain, the “originator” entered the data into a platform maintained by the aggregator, like Countrywide, where it was included in some “securitization package.

If the loan closed then it was frequently sold again with the new dates and data, so it would like like a different loan. Then the investment banks, posing as the lenders, obtained insurance, TARP, guarantee proceeds and other payments from “co-obligors” on each version of the loan that was sold, thus essentially creating the equivalent of new sales on loans that were guaranteed to be foreclosed either because there was no mortgage or because the terms were impossible for the borrower to satisfy.

The LPS roulette wheel in Jacksonville is the hub where it is decided WHO will be the foreclosing party and for HOW MUCH they will claim is owed, without any allowance for the multiple sales, proceeds of insurance, FDIC loss sharing, actual ownership of the loans or anything else. Despite numerous studies by those in charge of property records and academic studies, the beat goes on, foreclosing by entities who are “strangers to the transaction” (San Francisco study), on documents that were intentionally destroyed (Catherine Ann Porter study at University of Iowa), against homeowners who had no idea what was going on, using the money of investors who had no idea what was going on, and all based upon a triple tiered documentary system where the contractual meeting of the minds could never occur.

The first tier was the Prospectus and Pooling and Servicing Agreement that was used to obtain money from investors under false pretenses.

The second tier consisted of a whole subset of agreements, contracts, insurance, guarantees all payable to the investment banks instead of the investors.

And the third tier was the “closing documents” in which the borrower, contrary to Federal (TILA), state and common law was as clueless as the investors as to what was really happening, the compensation to intermediaries and the claims of ownership that would later be revealed despite the borrower’s receipt of “disclosure” of the identity of his lender and the terms of compensation by all people associated with the origination of the loan.

The beauty of this plan for Wall Street is that nobody from any of the tiers could make direct claims to the benefits of any of the contracts. It has also enabled then to foreclose more than once on the same home in the name of different creditors, making double claims for guarantee from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC loss sharing, insurance and credit default swaps.

The ugly side of the plan is still veiled, for the most part in secrecy. even when the homeowner gets close in court, there is a confidential settlement, sometimes for millions of dollars to keep the lawyer and the homeowner from disclosing the terms or the reasons why millions of dollars was paid to a homeowner to keep his mouth shut on a loan that was only $200,000 at origination.

This is exactly why I tell people that most of the time their case will be settled either in discovery where a Judge agrees you are entitled to peak behind the curtain, or at trial where it becomes apparent that the witness who is “familiar” with the corporate records really knows nothing and ahs nothing about the the real history of the loan transaction.

Bailout Treachery Sequel?

BUSINESS DAY | Five Years Later, Poll Finds Disapproval of Bailout

The simple answer is yes, there will be another bailout attempt and it appears likely that the Banks will continue to confuse things enough so that it again happens only “this time” there will be some “stern regulations”. The reason is not some esoteric financial mumbo jumbo, nor does it take brilliant economic insight — and shame on Democrats who “concede” the bailout was necessary. A little realism from my fellow Democrats in joining with Republicans on this pervasive issue might just be the stepping stone to loosening the idiotic gridlock being engineered by Republicans, who are dead right about the last bailout, and dead right about the next one.

The reason the attempt will be made is because the last one worked. The banks got trillions of dollars as compensation for creating the illusion that they had lost the entire economy. It was a lie then, it is a lie now and it will be a lie when they try it again. I agree that magicians as entertainers are worth whatever the market will bear. But I don’t agree that Wall Street bankers are entertainers and I agree with the vast majority of Americans who say the bankers or gangsters. They belong in jail. They won’t go to jail because of agreements made by law enforcement under Political pressure.

The last bailout worked because nobody understood securitization other than the investment bank collateral debt obligation (CDO) managers. If your sole source of information, analysis and interpretation is the perpetrator, it should come as no surprise that they lead you down a path that belongs in fiction, not reality. The result was we turned over the control of our currency to the bankers and we have never retrieved it. We gave them the country and indeed the world because our leaders were ignorant of the true facts and failed to ferret out the real ones, and therefore never had a chance to refute or corroborate the narrative from Wall Street.

Things haven’t changed much. Even the witnesses and lawyers for the banks in Foreclosures don’t understand securitization. When they say this is a Fannie Mae loan, everyone but me thinks that is the end of it. Nobody can answer my questions because they don’t understand them. Fannie is not a lender. If the statement is that “this is a Fannie Mae loan”, the question is how did it get that way? There are only one of two possibilities: (1) it was guaranteed by Fannie and then sold into the secondary market to a REMIC pool where in the master Trustee is Fannie and the individual trustee is the manager of the asset pool or (2) Fannie paid the loan or the loss off and is considered to own the loan even though the documents are absent showing the transfer. Either way you want to see reality — the movement of money to determine who is the lender, and to determine the real balance owed rather than the fabricated story of the subservicer.

So as long as ignorance prevails in government, there will be yet another bailout for losses that never happened on fictional transactions. Regulators will see no choice because they see no facts and have learned nothing from the last round of securitization. The new round is already underway and the stealing, lying, and treachery continues while pensioners’ money is flushed down the toilet for processing at the Wall Street money conversion plant where losses are turned into pure profit.

The Banker That Used Bailout to Buy a Condo

Just a short note on this. Think about it. Why would he have taken the money and used it for a condo when he had to cover bank losses on mortgage loans that were in default?

Answer: the bank had no losses, so there was nothing to account for.

This money wasn’t income. It couldn’t be booked as capital contribution, but his use of it to buy a condo didn’t harm the bank one bit. Their balance sheet is unchanged.

My guess is that if he asked an attorney familiar with accounting for banks, he would have suggested that the bank use the money to buy something that can be capitalized on the balance sheet.

Otherwise the financial statements look cooked by the receipt of “bailout” money when there were no losses to bailout. There were no losses to bailout because his bank never assumed the risk of loss on the subject securitized loans.

His bank never advanced any funds for the loans. His bank never used its credit to fund the loans. His bank was most probably an originator who was paid for services rendered. What services? The service of acting as though they were the lender when they were not. My guess is that unless they get him on some technicality his prosecution and sentence, if any, will be light.

Banker Used Bailout Money To Buy Luxury Condo
http://breakingnewsusa.com/2013/08/banker-bailout-money-buy-luxury-condo/

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Editor’s Comment: Among the unsung culprits in the false securitization scheme were the developers who conspired to raise prices to unconscionably high levels and the Wall Street funding that loaned the money for construction of new residential palaces. The reason the developer did it was once again, no risk and all profit, knowing that no matter how high the price, the appraisal would be approved. And the reason why IndyMac and other fronts for Wall Street’s tsunami of money did it was the same, no risk and all profit.

So what we have going on is that a few bankers are being thrown under the bus to take the blame for “isolated”instances of malfeasance. Their defense bespeaks of the widespread nature of this crime and how it created its own context of right and wrong. Many of them are saying they were following industry standards. Here’s the rub: they are right. The problem is that the new industry standards were illegal, fraudulent and disgraceful.

So here we have three IndyMac executives — out of thousands of people who did the exact same thing they did — accused of approving unworkable loans that were never repaid because in every Ponzi scheme the result is the same: when people stop putting in new money, the scheme collapses.

The question is not why these three are being charged in a civil action. The real questions are why are they not being charged with criminal fraud, and why thousands of other individuals who engaged in identical behavior are not being charged both civilly and criminally.

Then we have an interesting question: if it was improper for these three IndyMac execs to approve bad loans to developers, why are there no charges pending for approving bad loans and misleading homeowners?

DOJ keeps saying that they did not accumulate enough evidence to prove a criminal case, which as we all know, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But I say the DOJ simply went for the low-hanging fruit, intimidated by the complexity of securitization. But if they take two steps back and get their heads out of the thickets, they will see a simple Ponzi scheme that can be prosecuted easily.

Other than a criminal environment, what bank or other organization would set bonuses based upon the number of loans or the amount of money they moved? In the real world where right and wrong are inserted into the equation, bonuses, salary and employment is based upon the perception of management that an individual is contributing to a profit center. Here the bank is said to have “lost money” much of which was off set by insurance, Federal bailout and gigantic fees paid tot he bank for pretending to be a lender when they were not.

Criminal larges are way overdue against both the corporate mega banks and the titans who ran them, right down the line to anyone who had enough knowledge to realize the acts they were committing were wrong. But the money was too damn good — getting paid 4-10 times usual compensation was enough for them to keep their mouths shut — but not in all cases. Some people did quit or blow whistles. They are buried in the mounds of documents and statements taken by law enforcement all over the country.

It is not the lack of evidence that keeps the prosecutions, even the civil ones, from becoming a wave, it is the will of the people charged  with law enforcement decisions whose opinions were guided by political pressures. The Obama administration owes a better explanation of what is happening in the housing market and how it can be fixed. Without taking economists seriously on the importance of housing and prosecuting those who break the rules, the economy will continue to drag.

Japan just announced they had an annual GDP decline of 3.5%. Remember when we afraid japan’s money would take over the world? Their shrinking economy is due to the fact that they ideologically stuck to their guns and refused to stimulate the economy, protect their currency, and reign in the big money people. All they needed was a philosophy that the common man doesn’t matter. Hopefully our election which broke in favor of the democrats because of demographics, will teach a lesson — that without the success and hopes and good prospects for the common person entering the workforce, the economy can stall for decades.

FDIC seeks damages from three former IndyMac executives

Trial begins on a civil lawsuit that accuses them of negligence in approving loans that developers and home builders never repaid.

By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

When the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seized Pasadena housing lender IndyMac Bank four years ago, the scene resembled the grim bank failures of the 1930s.

Panicked depositors, seeking to reclaim their money, lined up outside branches of the big savings and loan, whose collapse under the weight of soured mortgage and construction loans helped usher in the financial crisis and biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

As those memories fade, the government’s effort to reclaim losses stemming from the financial debacle grinds on, with one IndyMac case winding up this week before a federal jury in Los Angeles.

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The civil lawsuit seeks damages from three former IndyMac executives, accusing them of negligence in approving 23 loans that developers and home builders never repaid, costing the bank almost $170 million.

The executives approved ill-advised loans because they earned bonuses for beefing up lending to developers and builders, said Patrick J. Richard, a lawyer representing the FDIC.

“They violated their duties to the bank,” Richard said in his opening statement to the jury Tuesday. “They violated standards of safe and reasonable banking.”

The bankers deny wrongdoing, contending that they made solid business decisions, which at the time were well-considered and approved by regulators and higher-ups at IndyMac.

“This case,” defense attorney Damian J. Martinez said in his opening statement Wednesday, “is about the government evaluating these loans with 20/20 hindsight after the greatest recession we’ve had since the Depression in the 1930s.”

The defendants — Scott Van Dellen, Richard Koon and Kenneth Shellem — ran IndyMac’s Homebuilder Division, a sideline to the thrift’s main business of residential mortgage lending. Court filings show the FDIC settled its case against a fourth former executive at the builder operation, William Rothman, by agreeing to a $4.75-million settlement to be paid by IndyMac’s insurance companies.

The trial, playing out before U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, highlights how federal authorities — often stymied at bringing criminal cases against major players in the financial crisis — have pursued civil damages on a number of fronts.

One high-profile example involved the Securities and Exchange Commission‘s investigation of Countrywide Financial Corp. of Calabasas. The SEC exacted a $67.5-million settlement from former Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo, who ran Countrywide as it expanded to become the nation’s largest purveyor of subprime and other high-risk mortgages.

A Justice Department probe of Mozilo had found too little evidence to support a criminal prosecution. Admitting no wrongdoing, Mozilo paid $22.5 million of the SEC settlement himself, with corporate insurance policies covering most of the balance.

On another front, federal and state prosecutors have filed a series of civil lawsuits accusing major home lenders including Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. of fraud and recklessness that cost taxpayers and investors billions of dollars.

Taking a different approach, the FDIC suits aim to recover losses in its insurance fund, which compensates depositors when banks fail. The agency says it has authorized lawsuits against 665 insiders at 80 institutions seized during the recent crisis, with 33 suits already filed.

The IndyMac case now going to trial, filed in July 2010, was the first of those suits.

Recoveries typically are modest compared with the losses.

IndyMac’s failure cost the federal insurance fund more than $13 billion, the largest loss among the 463 banks that have failed since 2008. But the FDIC is seeking only $170 million in the suit that has gone to trial in L.A., plus $600 million in a separate suit against former IndyMac Chief Executive Michael Perry.

(Perry contends that the pending lawsuit, accusing him of negligently allowing $10 billion in dicey mortgages to pile up on IndyMac’s books, is without merit.)

The FDIC is proceeding with the IndyMac case despite a setback in its efforts to collect from IndyMac’s insurance. U.S. District Judge Gary Klausen ruled July 2 that IndyMac officer and director insurance policies at the time of its failure cannot be used to cover any damages the agency wins against former bank insiders.

An appeal of that ruling is before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the ruling stands, the FDIC could only try to recover damages by attaching the defendants’ personal assets.

The IndyMac defendants’ earnings were modest by the standards of executives running large financial firms, such as Mozilo, whose take during the housing bubble has been estimated at nearly $470 million. But their compensation — in the $500,000 annual range for Koon and Shellem and well over $1 million for Van Dellen, who headed the Homebuilder Division — merited note by the FDIC.

Richard, the lawyer making the FDIC’s opening statement, noted that Van Dellen had rejected a suggestion by Perry in July 2006, as cracks appeared in the housing markets, that IndyMac take a cautious approach in its lending to home builders.

Van Dellen replied in an email that “now is the time to pounce,” Richard told the jury. “So what was his motivation? His bonus for 2006 production was 4 1/2 times his base salary — $914,000 — tied to production” of more builder loans.

scott.reckard@latimes.com

la-fi-indymac-trial-20121110,0,3796443.story

Banks Trying to Get Bill Through Congress Protecting MERS

Editor’s Comment: It is no small wonder that the banks are scared. After all they created MERS and they control MERS and many of them own MERS. The Washington Supreme Court ruling leaves little doubt that MERS is a sham, leaving even less doubt that an industry is sprouting up for wrongful foreclosure in which trillions of dollars are at stake.

The mortgages that were used for foreclosure are, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a growing number of courts and lawyers and regulatory agencies around the country, State and Federal, were fatally defective and that leads to the conclusion that (1) the foreclosures can be overturned and (2) millions of dollars in damages might be payable to those homeowners who were foreclosed and evicted from homes they legally owned.

But the problem for the megabanks is even worse than that. If the mortgages were defective (deeds of trust in some states), then the money collected by the banks from insurance, credit default swaps, federal bailouts and buyouts and other hedge instruments pose an enormous liability to the large banks that promulgated this scam known as securitization where the last thing they had in mind was securitization. In many cases, the loans were effectively sold multiple times thus creating a liability not only to the borrower that illegally had his home seized but a geometrically higher liability to other financial institutions and governments and investors for selling them toxic waste.

There is a reason that that the bailout is measured at $17 trillion and it isn’t because those are losses caused by defaults in mortgages which appear to total less than 10% of that amount. The total of ALL mortgages during that period that are subject to claims of securitization (false claims, in my opinion) was only $13 trillion. So why was the $17 trillion bailout $4 trillion more than all the mortgages put together, most of which are current on their payments?

The reason is that some bets went well, in which case the banks kept the profits and didn’t tell the investors about it even though it was investor with which money they were betting.

If the loan went sour, or the Master Servicer, in its own interest, declared that the value of the pool had been diminished by a higher than expected default rate, then the insurance contract and credit default contract REQUIRED payment even though most of the loans were intact. Of course we now know that the loans were probably never in the pools anyway.

The bets that ended up in losses were tossed over the fence at the Federal Government and the bets that were “good” ended up with the insurers (AIG, AMBAC) having to pay out more money than they were worth. Enter the Federal Government again to make up the difference where the banks collected 100 cents on the dollar, didn’t tell the investors and declared the loans in default anyway and then proceeded to foreclose.

The banks’ answer to this knotty problem is predictable. Overturn the Washington Supreme Court case and others like it appellate and trial courts around the country by having Congress declare that the MERS transactions were valid. The biggest hurdle they must overcome is not a paperwork problem —- it is a money problem.

In many if not most cases, neither MERS nor the named payee on the note nor the “lender” identified on the note and mortgage had loaned any money at all. Even the banks are saying that the loans are owned by the “Trusts” but it now appears as though the trusts were never funded by either money or loans and that there were no bank accounts or any other accounts for those pools.

That leaves nothing but nominees for unidentified parties in all the blank spaces on the note and mortgage, whose terms were different than the payback provisions promised to the investor lenders. And THAT means that much of the assets carried on the books of the banks are simply worthless and non-existent AND that there is a liability associated with those transactions that is geometrically higher than the false assets that the banks are reporting.

So the question comes down to this: will Congress try to save MERS? (I.e., will they try to save the banks again with a legal bailout?). Will the effort even be constitutional since it deals with property required to be governed under States’ rights under the constitution or are we going to forget the Constitution and save the banks at all costs?

When you cast your ballot in November, remember to look at the candidates you are considering. If they are aligned with the banks, we can expect slashed pension benefits next year along with a whole new round of housing and economic decline.

mers-is-dead-can-be-sued-for-fraud-wa-supreme-court.html

The Documents Fannie and Freddie Never Received

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Editor’s Comment:

Go to the link below which will take you to the article posted on StopForeclosureFraud where  you will see a list of documents (just like the Pooling and Servicing Agreements that everyone ignored) that should have been received by Freddie, Fannie, Ginnie, FHA et al.  Since we now know that the securitization chain of documents was nonexistent until the dealers were called upon to fabricate them for cases in litigation, we know that the absolute minimum requirements for Fannie and Freddie approval were absent. 

This means, contrary to the assertions of 99% of the securitization “auditors”, and contrary to the appearance of a loan on a Fannie or Freddie website, that the loan was never delivered to those agencies nor any of the documents required.  Just as the REMICs never received the loans, Freddie never received the loans.  And since Freddie never received the loans it became the master trustee of “trusts” that never received the loans and were therefore empty.

All this means is that we have to go back to the first day of the alleged transaction.  Investor lenders, operating through dealers, (investment banks) were advancing money for the “purchase” of residential mortgage loans.   The money was advanced to the closing agent who paid off the party claiming to be the prior mortgagee, giving the balance to the seller of the property or to the borrower (if the transaction was supposedly a refinance).  The nightmare for the banks is that if we go back to that first day the parties named as “lender”, “beneficiary”, “mortgagee” are the only parties of record with an apparent recorded interest in the property.  Their problem is that contrary to conventional foreclosure practice, those entities (many of which do not exist anymore) never funded nor even handled the money as a conduit for the loan.  Thus the note and mortgage are fatally defective and cannot be enforced. 

This would mean that the loan never made it into any pool.  That would mean that all of the deals made by the dealers (investment banks) based on the existence of that loan would fall apart leaving them with an enormous liability since they had sold the same deal dozens of times.  And that is the sole reason why the bailout, insurance, credit default swaps, guarantees and other credit enhancements were so large.  The banks used their ability to control the people with their hands on the levers of power within our government to pay for the malfeasance of the banks that have wrecked our economy and our society.

As Iceland has already proven and Europe is in the process of proving, the only answer is to take the stolen money back from the banks, put it back into the private sector, and put it back into government budgets. 

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Wrong Bailout

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Editor’s Comment:

It isn’t in our own mainstream media but the fact is that Europe is verging on  collapse. They are bailing out banks and taking them apart (something which our regulators refuse to do). The very same banks that caused the crisis are the ones that are going to claim they too need another bailout because of international defaults. The article below seems extreme but it might be right on target.

From the start the treatment of the banks had been wrong-headed and controlled by of course the banks themselves. With Jamie Dimon sitting on the Board of Directors of the NY FED, which is the dominatrix in the Federal Reserve system, what else would you expect?

The fact is that, as Iceland and other countries have proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the bailout of the banks is dead wrong and it is equally wrong-headed to give them the continued blank check to pursue business strategies that drain rather than infuse liquidity in economies that are ailing because of intentional acts of the banks to enrich themselves rather than the countries that give them license to exist.

The bailout we proposed every year and every month and practically every day on this blog is the only one that will work: reduce household debt, return things to normalcy (before the fake securitization of mortgages and other consumer and government debt) and without spending a dime of taxpayer money.  The right people will pay for this and the victims will get some measure of relief — enough to jump start economies that are in a death spiral.

Just look at home mortgages. They were based upon layers of lies that are almost endless and that continue through the present. But the principal lie, the one that made all the difference, was that the mortgage bonds were worth something and the real property was worth more than the supposed loans. With only a few exceptions those were blatant lies that are not legal or permissible under any exemption claimed by Wall Street. Our system of laws says that if you steal from someone you pay for it with your liberty and whatever it is you stole is returned to the victim if it still exists. And what exists, is millions of falsely created invalid illegal instruments recorded in title registries all over the country affecting the title of more than 20 million households.

All we need to do is admit it. The loans are unsecured and the only fair way of handling things is to bring all the parties to the table, work out a deal and stop the foreclosures. This isn’t going to happen unless the chief law enforcement officers of each state and the clerks of the title registry offices wake up to the fact that they are part of the problem. It takes guts to audit the title registry like they did in San Francisco and other states, cities and counties. But the reward is that the truth is known and only by knowing the truth will we correct the problem.

The housing market is continuing to suffer because we are living a series of lies. The government, realtors and the banks and servicers all need us to believe these lies because they say that if we admit them, the entire financial system will dissolve. Ask any Joe or Josephine on the street — the financial system has already failed for them. Income inequality has never been worse and history shows that (1) the more the inequality the more power those with wealth possess to keep things going their way and (2) this eventually leads to chaos and violence. As Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, people will endure almost anything until they just cannot endure it any longer. That time is coming closer than anyone realizes.

Only weeks before France erupted into a bloody revolution with gruesome dispatch of aristocrats, the upper class thought that the masses could be kept in line as long as they were thrown a few crumbs now and then. That behavior of the masses grew from small measures exacted from a resisting government infrastructure to simply taking what they wanted. Out of sheer numbers the aristocracy was unable to fight back against an entire country that was literally up in arms about the unfairness of the system. But even the leaders of the French Revolution and the Merican revolution understood that someone must be in charge and that an infrastructure of laws and enfrocement, confidence in the marketplace and fair dealing must be the status quo. Disturb that and you end up with overthrow of existing authority replaced by nothing of any power or consequence.

Both human nature and history are clear. We can all agree that the those who possess the right stuff should be rich and the rest of us should have a fair shot at getting rich. There is no punishment of the rich or even wealth redistribution. The problem is not wealth inequality. And “class warfare” is not the right word for what is going on — but it might well be the right words if the upper class continue to step on the rest of the people. The problem is that there is no solution to wealth inequality unless the upper class cooperates in bringing order and a fair playing field to the marketplace —- or face the consequences of what people do when they can’t feed, house, educate or protect their children.

LaRouche: The Glass-Steagall Moment Is Upon Us

Spanish collapse can bring down the Trans-Atlantic system this weekend

Abruptly, but lawfully, the Spanish debt crisis has erupted over the past 48 hours into a systemic rupture in the entire trans-Atlantic financial and monetary facade, posing the immediate question: Will the European Monetary Union and the entire trans-Atlantic financial system survive to the end of this holiday weekend?



Late on Friday afternoon, the Spanish government revealed that the cost of bailing out the Bankia bank, which was nationalized on May 9, will now cost Spanish taxpayers nearly 24 billion euro—and rising. Many other Spanish banks are facing imminent collapse or bailout; the autonomous Spanish regions, with gigantic debts of their own, are all now bankrupt and desperate for their own bailout. Over the last week, Spanish and foreign depositors have been pulling their money out of the weakest Spanish banks in a panic, in a repeat of the capital flight out of the Greek banks months ago. 



The situations in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland are equally on the edge of total disintegration—and the exposure of the big Wall Street banks to this European disintegration is so enormous that there is no portion of the trans-Atlantic system that is exempt from the sudden, crushing reality of this collapse.



Whether or not the system holds together for a few days or weeks more, or whether it literally goes into total meltdown in the coming hours, the moment of truth has arrived, when all options to hold the current system together have run out.

Today, in response to this immediate crisis, American political economist Lyndon LaRouche issued a clarion call to action. Referring to the overall trans-Atlantic financial bubble, in light of the Spanish debt explosion of the past 48 hours, LaRouche pinpointed its significance as follows:

“The rate of collapse now exceeds the rate of the attempts to overtake the collapse. That means that, essentially, the entire European system, in its present form, is in the process of a hopeless degeneration. Now, this is something comparable to what happened in Germany in 1923, and they’ve caught themselves in a trap, where a rate of collapse exceeds the rate of their attempt to overtake yesterday.

“So therefore, we’re in a new situation, and the only solution in Europe, in particular, is Glass-Steagall, or the Glass-Steagall equivalent, with no fooling around. Straight Glass-Steagall — no bailouts! None! In other words, you have to collapse the entire euro system. The entirety of the euro system has to collapse. But it has to collapse in the right way; it has to be a voluntary collapse, which is like a Glass-Steagall process. This means the end of the euro, really. The euro system is about to end, because you can’t sustain it.

“Everything is disintegrating now in Europe. It can be rescued very simply, by a Glass-Steagall type of operation, and then going back to the currencies which existed before. In other words, you need a stable system of currencies, or you can’t have a recovery at all! In other words, if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of your bailout, then what happens when you try to increase the bailout, you increase the hysteria. You increase the rate of collapse. In other words, the rate of collapse exceeds the rate of bailout.

“And now, you have Spain, and Portugal implicitly, and the situation in Greece. Italy’s going to go in the same direction. So the present system, which Obama’s trying to sustain, in his own peculiar way, is not going to work. There’s no hope for the system. Nor is there any hope for the U.S. system in its present form. The remedies, the problems, are somewhat different between Europe and the United States, but the nature of the disease is the same. They both have the same disease: It’s called the British disease. It’s hyperinflation.

“So, now you’re in a situation where the only way you can avoid a rate of hyperinflation beyond the rate of hyper-collapse is Glass-Steagall, or the equivalent. You have to save something, you have to save the essentials. Well, the essentials are: You take all the things that go into the bailout category, and you cancel them. How do you cancel them? Very simple: Glass-Steagall. Anything that is not fungible in terms of Glass-Steagall categories doesn’t get paid! It doesn’t get unpaid either; it just doesn’t get paid. Because you remove these things from the categories of things that you’re responsible to pay. You’re not responsible to bail out gambling, you’re not responsible to pay out gambling debts.

“Now, the gambling debts are the hyperinflation. So now, we might as well say it: The United States, among other nations, is hopelessly bankrupt.

“But this is the situation! This is what reality is! And what happens, is the entire U.S. government operation is beyond reckoning. It is collapsing! And there’s only one thing you can do: The equivalent of Glass-Steagall: You take those accounts, which are accounts which are worthy, which are essential to society, you freeze the currencies, their prices, and no bailout. And you don’t pay anything that does not correspond to a real credit. It’s the only solution. The point has been reached—it’s here! You’re in a bottomless pit, very much like Germany 1923, Weimar.

“And in any kind of hyperinflation, this is something you come to. And there’s only one way to do it: Get rid of the bad debt! It’s going to have to happen.

“The entire world system is in a crisis. It’s a general breakdown crisis which is centered in the trans-Atlantic community. That’s where the center of the crisis is. So, in the United States, we’re on the verge of a breakdown, a blowout; it can happen at any time. When will it happen, we don’t know, because we’ve seen this kind of thing before, as in 1923 Germany, November-December 1923, this was the situation. And it went on after that, but it’s a breakdown crisis. And that’s it.

“Those who thought there could be a bailout, or they had some recipe that things were going to be fine, that things would be manageable, that’s all gone! You’re now relieved of that great burden. You need have no anxiety about the U.S. dollar. Why worry about it? Either it’s dead or it’s not! And the only way it’s not going to be dead, is by an end of bailout. That’s the situation.

“We don’t know exactly where the breakdown point comes. But it’s coming, because we’re already in a system in which the rate of breakdown is greater than the rate of any bailout possible! And there’s only one way you can do that: Cancel a whole category of obligations! Those that don’t fit the Glass-Steagall standard, or the equivalent of Glass-Steagall standard: Cancel it, immediately! We don’t pay anything on gambling debts. Present us something that’s not a gambling debt, and we may be able to deal with that.”

LaRouche concluded with a stark warning:

“If you think that this system is going to continue, and you can find some way to get out of this problem, you can not get out of this problem, because you are the problem! Your failure to do Glass-Steagall, is the problem. And it’s your failure! Don’t blame somebody else: If you didn’t force through Glass-Steagall, it’s your fault, and it continues to be your fault! It’s your mistake, which is continuing!

“And that’s the situation we have in Europe, and that, really, is also the situation in the United States.

“But that’s where we are! It’s exactly the situation we face now, and there’s no other discussion that really means much, until we can decide to end the bailout, and to absolutely cancel all illegitimate debt—that is, bailout debt!

“There’s only one solution: The solution is, get rid of the illegitimate disease, the hyperinflation! Get rid of the hyperinflationary factor. Cancel the hyperinflation! Don’t pay those debts! Don’t cancel them, just don’t pay them! You declare them outside the economy, outside the responsibility of government: We can no longer afford to sustain you, therefore, you’ll have to find other remedies of your own. That’s where you are. It had to come, it has been coming.”


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Bribery or Business as Usual?

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Editor’s Comment and Analysis:

There is only one way this isn’t an outright bribe that should land the senator in jail — and that is proving that he received nothing of value. Stories abound in the media about haircut rates given to members of government particularly by Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America. Now we see it on the way down where others go through hoops and ladders to get a modification of short-sale but members of Congress get special treatment.

The only way this could be considered nothing of value is if the banks that gave this favor knew that they didn’t lend the money, didn’t purchase the loan and didn’t have a dime in the deal. They can prove it but they won’t because the fallout would be that there are no loans in print and that there are no perfected mortgage loans. The consequence is that there can be no foreclosures. And it would mean that the values carried on the books of these banks are eihter overstated or entirely fictiouos. The general consensus is that capital requirments for the banks should be higher. But what if the capital they are reporting doesn’t exist?

We are seeing practically everyday how Congress is bought off by the Banks and yet we do nothing. How can you expect to be taken seriously by the executive branch and the judicial branch of goveornment charged with enforcing the laws? If you are doing nothing and complaining, it’s time to get off the couch and do something with the Occupy Movement or your own private war with the banks. If you are not complaining, you should be — because this tsunami is about to hit the front door of your house too whether you are making the payments or not.

The power of the new aristocracy in American and European politics is felt around the globe. People are suffering in the U.S., Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and other places because the smaller banks in all those countries got taken to the cleaners by huge conglomerate Wall Street Banks. Ireland is reporting foreclosures and defaults at record rates. It was fraud with an effect far greater than any other act of domestic or international terrorism. And it isn’t just about money either. Suicides, domestic violence ending in death and mental illness are pandemic. And nobody cares about the little guy because the little guy is just fuel for the endless appetite of Wall Street. 

If Obama rreally wants to galvanize the electorate, he must be proactive on the fierce urgency of NOW! Those were his words when he was a candidate and he owes us action because that urgency was felt in 2008 and is a vice around everyone’s neck now.

JPMorgan Chase & the Senator’s Short Sale:

It’s Hypocritical -But Is It Corrupt?

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

There’s a lot we have yet to learn about the story of Sen. Mike Lee, Tea Party Republican of Utah, and America’s largest bank. But we already know something’s very, very wrong:

Why is it that most Americans can’t get a principal reduction from Chase or any other bank, but JPMorgan Chase was so very flexible with a sitting member of the United States Senate?

The hypocrisy from Sen. Lee and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon overfloweth. But does the Case of the Senator’s Short Sale rise to the level of full-blown corruption? We won’t know until we get some answers.

People should be demanding those answers now.

When Jamie Met Mike

It’s not a pretty picture: In one corner is the Senator who wants to strike down Federal child labor laws and offer American residency to any non-citizen who buys a home with cash. In the other is the bank whose CEO said that the best way to relieve the crushing burden of debt on homeowners is by seizing their homes.

“Giving debt relief to people that really need it,” said Dimon, “that’s what foreclosure is.” That comment is Dickensian in its insensitivity – and Dimon’s bank offered real relief to the Senator from Utah.

The story of the short sale on Sen. Mike Lee’s home broke broke shortly not long after the world learned that JPM lost billions of dollars through trading that might have been illegal, and about which it certainly misled investors.

A Senator who doesn’t believe in child labor laws, and a crime-plagued bank that was just plunged into a trading scandal after losing billions in the London markets.

Why, they were practically made for one another.

Here in the Real World

This was also the week we learned from Zillow, one of the nation’s leading real estate data companies, that there are far more underwater homeowners than previously thought. Zillow collated all the information on home loans, including second mortgages, in order to develop this larger and more accurate number.

The new estimated amount of negative equity – money owed to the banks for non-existent home value – is $1.2 trillion.

Zillow found that nearly 16 million homeowners, representing roughly a third of all homes with a mortgage, were “underwater” (meaning they owe more than the home is now worth). That’s about 50 percent more than had been previously believed. Many of these homeowners are desperate for principal reduction, which would allow them to get back on their feet.

Banks can reduce the amount owed to reflect the current value of the house, which would lower monthly payments for many struggling homeowners. Another option is the “short sale,” in which the bank lets them sell the house for its current value and walk away. That would allow many of them to relocate in search of work.

But the banks, along with their allies in Washington DC, have been fighting principal reduction and resisting any attempts to increase the number of short sales. They remain out of reach for most struggling homeowners.

Mike’s Deal

But Mike Lee didn’t have that problem. Lee was elected to the Senate after buying his luxury home in Alpine, Utah at the height of the real estate boom. JPMorgan Chase agreed to a short sale, and it sold for nearly $400,000 less than the price Lee paid for it four years ago.

Sen. Lee says that he made a down payment on the home, although he hasn’t said how much was involved. But if he paid 15 percent down and put it $150,000, for example, then the Senator from Utah was just allowed to walk away from a quarter of a million dollars in debt obligations to JPMorgan Chase.

Let’s see: A troubled bank gives a sitting member of the United States Senate an advantageous deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? You’d think a story like that would get a little more attention than it has so far.

The Right’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

We haven’t seen this much hypocrisy in the real estate world since the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from loans on its own headquarters even as its CEO, John Courson, was lecturing Americans their “legal obligation” and the terrible “message they would send” by walking away from their mortgages.

Then he did a short sale on the MBA’s headquarters. It sold for a reported $41 million, just three years after the MBA – those captains of real estate – paid $74 million for it.

The MBA calls itself “the voice of the mortgage banking industry.”

The hypocrisy may be even greater in this case. Sen. Mike Lee is a member in good standing of the Tea Party, a movement which began on the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a protest against the idea that the government might help underwater homeowners, even though many of the angry traders had enriched themselves thanks to government bailouts.

When their ringleader mentioned households struggling with negative equity, these first members of the Tea Party broke into a chant: “Losers! Losers! Losers!”

Mike Lee’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Which gets us to Mike Lee. Lee accepted a handout of JPMorgan Chase after voting to end unemployment for jobless Americans. Lee also argued against Federal child labor laws, although he did acknowledge that child labor is “reprehensible.”

How big a hypocrite is Mike Lee? His website (which, curiously enough, went down as we wrote these words) says he believes “the federal government’s out-of-control spending has evolved into a major threat to our economic prosperity and job creation” and that he came to Washington to, among other things, “properly manage our finances”. Lee’s website also scolds Congress because, he says, it “cannot live within its means.”

As Ed McMahon used to say, “Write your own joke.”

Needless to say, Lee also advocates drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare while pushing lower taxes for the wealthy – and plumping for exactly the same kind of deregulation which let bankers to run amok and wreck the economy in 2008 by doing things like … well, like what JPMorgan Chase just did in London.

“Give Me Your Wired, Your Wealthy, Your Upper Classes Yearning to Buy Cheap”

Lee has also co-sponsored a bill with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from Wall Street New York, that would grant US residency to foreigners who purchase a home worth at least $500,000 – as long as they paid cash.

The Lee/Schumer bill would be a big boon to US banks – banks, in fact, like JPMorgan Chase. If it passes, the Statue of Liberty may need to be reshaped so that Lady Liberty is holding a book of real estate listings in her right hand while wearing a hat that reads “Million Dollar Sellers’ Club.”

Mike Lee’s bill would also have propped up the luxury home market, offering a big financial boost to people who are struggling to hold to the equity they’ve put into high-end homes, people like … well, like Mike Lee.

Jamie Dimon’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Then there’s Jamie Dimon, who spoke for his fellow bankers during negotiations that led up to the very cushy $25 billion settlement that let banks like his off the hook for widespread lawbreaking in their foreclosure fraud crime wave.

“Yeah,” Dimon said of principal reductions for homeowners like Sen. Lee, “that’s off the table.”

Dimon’s been resisting global solutions to the negative equity problems for years. He said in 2010 that he preferred to make decisions about homeowners on a “loan by loan” basis.

The Rich Are Different – They Have More Mortgage Relief

“The rich are different,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, and (in a quote often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway) literary critic Mary Colum observed that ” the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.”

And they apparently find it a lot easier to walk away from their underwater homes.There’s been a dramatic increase in short sales lately, and the evidence suggests that most of the deals have been going to luxury homeowners. Among other things, this trend toward high-end short sales the lie to the popular idea that bankers and their allies don’t want to “reward the underserving,” since hedge fund traders who overestimated next year’s bonus are clearly less deserving than working families who purchased a modest home for themselves.

Nevertheless, that’s where most of the debt relief seems to be going: to the wealthy, and not to the middle class.

Guess that’s what happens when loan officers working for Dimon and other Wall Street CEOs handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis.

Immoral Logic

While this “loan by loan” approach lacks morality, there’s some financial logic to it. Banks typically have a lot more money at risk in an underwater luxury home than they do in more modest houses. A short sale provides them with a way to clear things up, recoup what they can, and get their books in a little more order than before. That’s why JPMorgan Chase has been offering selected borrowers up to $35,000 to accept short sales. You can bet they’re not offering that deal to middle class families.

There are other reasons to offer short sales to the wealthy: JPM, like all big banks, is pursuing very-high-end banking clients more aggressively than ever. That’s where the profits are. So why alienate a high-value client when they may offer you the opportunity to recoup losses elsewhere?

(“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Dimon, but it’s London calling.”)

Corruption Or Not: The Questions

Both the bank and the Senator need to answer some questions about this deal. Here’s what the public deserves to know:

Could the writedown on the home’s value be considered an in-kind gift to a sitting Senator?

If so, then we have a very real scandal on our hands. But we don’t know enough to answer that question yet.

What are JPMorgan Chase’s procedures for deciding who receives mortgage relief and who doesn’t?

Dimon may prefer to handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis, but there must be guidelines that bank officers can follow. And presumably they’ve been written down somewhere. Were they followed in Mike Lee’s case?

Who was involved in the decision to offer this deal to Mike Lee?

Offering mortgage relief to a sitting Senator is, to borrow a phrase, “a big elfin’ deal.” A mid-level bank officer isn’t likely to handle a case like this without taking it up the chain of command. So who made the final decision on Mike Lee’s mortgage?

It wouldn’t be unheard of if a a sensitive matter like this one was escalated to all the way to the company’s most senior executive – especially if that executive has eliminated any checks on his power, much less any independent input from shareholders, by serving as both the Chair(man) of the Board and the CEO.

In this, as in so many of JPM’s scandals, the question must be asked: What did Jamie know, and when did he know it?

Is Mike Lee a “Friend of Jamie”?

Which raises a related question: Is there is a formal or informal list of people for whom JPM employees are directed to give preferential treatment?

Everybody remembers the scandal that surrounded Sen. Chris Dodd when it was learned that his mortgage was given favorable treatment by Countrywide – even though the Senator apparently knew nothing about it at the time. The world soon learned then that Countrywide had a VIP program called “Friends of Angelo,” named for CEO Angelo Mozilo, and those who were on the list got special treatment.

Is there a “Friends of Jamie” list at JPMorgan Chase – and is Mike Lee’s name on it?

Were there any discussions between the bank’s executives and the Senator regarding the foreign home buyer’s bill or any other legislation that affected Wall Street?

Until this question is answered the issue of a possible quid pro quo will hang over both the Senator and JPMorgan Chase.

Seriously, guys – this doesn’t look good.

Was MERS used to evade state taxes and recording requirements on Sen. Lee’s home? 

JPMorgan Chase funded, and was an active participant, in the “MERS” program which was used, among other things, to bypass local taxes and legal requirements for recording titles.

As we wrote when we reviewed hundreds of internal MERS documents, MERS was instrumental in allowing banks to bundle and sell mortgage-backed securities in a way that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008. It also helped bankers artificially inflate real estate prices, encourage homeowners to take out loans at bubble prices, and then leave them holding the note (as underwater homeowners) after the collapse of national real estate values that they had artificially pumped up.

“Today’s Wall Street Corruption Fun Fact”: MERS was operated by the Mortgage Bankers Association – the same group of real estate geniuses who lost $30 million on a single building in three years, then gave a little lecture on morality to the homeowners they’d been so instrumental in shafting.

Q&A

I was also asked some very reasonable questions by a policy advocacy group. Here they are, with my answers:

If this happened to the average American, would they be able to walk away from the mortgage as well?

If by “average American” you mean “most homeowners,” then the answer is: No. Although short sales are on the rise, most underwater homeowners have not been given the option of going through a short sale. Mike Lee was. The question is, why?

Will Mike Lee’s credit rating be adversely affected?

This is a very important question. The credit rating industry serves banks, not consumers, and it operates at their beck and call.

The answer to this question depends on how JPM handled the paperwork. Many (and probably most) homeowners involved in a short sale take a hit to their credit rating. If Lee did not, it smacks of special treatment.

Given the fact that it was JPMorgan who financed the loss, does that mean, indirectly through the bailout, that the taxpayers paid for Lee’s mortgage write-off?

That gets tricky – but in a moral sense, you could certainly say that.

Short Selling Democracy

There’s no question that this deal is hypocritical and ugly, and that it reflects much of what’s still broken about both our politics and Wall Street. Is it a scandal? Without these answers we can’t know. This was either a case of the special treatment that is so often reserved for the wealthy, or it’s something even worse: influence peddling and political corruption.

it’s time for JPMorgan Chase and Sen. Mike Lee to come clean about this deal. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. Either way the public’s entitled to some answers.


People Have Answers, Will Anyone Listen?

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Editor’s Comment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before

The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

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

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

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

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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


How Did H & R Block Get into the Subprime Mortgage Business?

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Tax Preparer Slammed with $24 Million in Fines on Toxic Mortgages

Editor’s Comment:  You really have to think about some of these stories and what they mean. 

1. Where is the synergy in a merger between Option One and H&R Block? The answers that they were both performing services for fees and neither one was ever a banker, lender or even investor sourcing the funds that were used to lure borrowers into deals that were so convoluted that even Alan Greenspan admits he didn’t understand them.

2. The charge is that they didn’t reveal that they could not buy back all the bad mortgages — meaning they did buy back some of them. which ones? And were some of those mortgages foreclosed in the name of a stranger to the transaction? WORSE YET — how many satisfactions of mortgages were executed by Ocwen, which was not the creditor, never the lender, and never the successor to any creditor. Follow the money trail. The only trail that exists is the trail leading from the investor’s banks accounts into the escrow agent’s trust account with instructions to refund any excess to parties who were complete strangers to the transaction disclosed to the borrower. The intermediary account in which the investor money was deposited was used to pay pornographic fees and profits to the investment banker and close affiliates as “participants” in a scheme of ” securitization” that never took place.

3. Under what terms were the loans purchased? Was it the note, the mortgage or the obligation? There are differences between all three.

4. Since they didn’t have the money to buy back the loans it might be inferred that they never had that money. In other words, they appeared on the “closing papers” as lender when in fact they never had the money to loan and they merely had performed a fee for service — I.e., acting as though they were the lender when they were not.

5. Who was the lender? If the money came from investors, then we know how to identify the creditor. but if we assume that the loan might have been paid or purchased by Option One, then isn’t the lender’s obligation paid? let’s see those actual repurchase transactions.

6. If that isn’t right then Option One must be correctly identified as the lender on the note and mortgage even though they never loaned any money and may or may not have purchased the entire loan, just the receivable, the right to sell the property — but how does anyone purchase the right to submit a credit bid at the foreclosure auction when everyone knows they were not the creditor?

7. How could any of these entities have any loans on their books when they were never the source of funds and why are they being allowed to claim losses obviously fell on the investors who put up the money on toxic mortgages believing them to be triple A rated. 

8. Why would anyone underwrite a bad deal unless they knew they would not lose any money? These mortgages were bad mortgages that under normal circumstances would never have been  offered by any bank loaning its own money or the it’s depositors. 

9. The terms of the deal MUST have been that nobody except the investors loses money on this deal and the kickers is that the investors appear to have waived their right to foreclose. 

10. So the thieves who cooked up this deal get paid for creating it and then end up with the house because the befuddled borrower doesn’t realise that either the debts are paid (at least the one secured by the mortgage) or that the debt has been paid down under terms of the loan (see PSA et al) that were never disclosed to the borrower — contrary to TILA.

11. The Courts must understand that there is a difference between paying a debt and buying the debt. The Courts must require any “assignment” to be tested b discovery where the money trail can be examined. What they will discover is that there is no money trail and that the assignment was a sham.  

12. And if the origination documents show the wrong creditor and fail disclose the true fees and profits of all parties identified with the transaction, the documents — note, mortgage and settlement statements are fatally defective and cannot create a perfected lien without overturning centuries of common law, statutory law and regulations governing the banking and lending industries.

H&R Block Unit Pays $28.2M to Settle SEC Claims Regarding Sale of Subprime Mortgages

By Kansas City Business Journal

H&R Block Inc. subsidiary Option One Mortgage Corp. agreed to pay $28.2 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission    charges that it had misled investors, federal officials announced Tuesday.

The SEC alleged that Option One promised to repurchase or replace residential mortgage-backed securities it sold in 2007 that breached representations and warranties. The subsidiary did not disclose that its financial situation had degraded such that it could not fulfill its repurchase promises.

Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a release that Option One’s subprime mortgage business was hit hard by the collapse of the housing market.

“The company nonetheless concealed from investors that its perilous finances created risk that it would not be able to fulfill its duties to repurchase or replace faulty mortgages in its (residential mortgage-backed securities) portfolios,” Khuzami said in the release.

The SEC said Option One was one of the nation’s largest subprime mortgage lenders, with originations of $40 billion in its 2006 fiscal year. When the housing market began to decline in 2006, the unit was faced with falling revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of margin calls from creditors.

Parent company H&R Block (NYSE: HRB) provided financing for Option One to meet margin calls and repurchase obligations, but Block was not obligated to do so. Option One did not disclose this reliance to investors.

Option One, now Sand Canyon Corp., did not admit or deny the allegations. It agreed to pay disgorgement of $14.25 million, prejudgment interest of nearly $4 million and a penalty of $10 million.

Kansas City-based H&R Block reported that it still had $430.19 million of mortgage loans on its books from Option One as of Jan. 31. That’s down 16.2 percent from the same period the previous year.

Securitization – The Undead Heart of The Shadow Banking Machine

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Editor’s Comment: 

The article below was written by David Malone of the Golem XIV: Author of the Debt Generation, website, and was submitted to this blog by ELLEN BROWN

Ellen is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com.  She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute.

Securitization – The Undead Heart of The Shadow Banking Machine

At the centre of all debates about the Banking crisis, the shadow Banking system and the bank bail-outs is Debt. For a long time I have been arguing that what this debt is, is in fact a new, bank created, bank issued and ultimately bank debased debt-backed currency. And the collapse in value of this unregulated currency IS the crisis. Its cause and its logic.

In order to explain why I think this and why I do not think ‘fixing’ the banking system back to any semblance of how it was, just prior to the crash, will be anything other than a disaster, I have to explain how debt is turned into money. And how, clever as this process is, it also contains within it the seeds of its own undoing.

To do so I have to take you into the undead heart of the machine – securitization. Securitization is what animates the global financial and shadow banking system in whose shadow we now live. It is how modern finance turns debt into money. It is the impious alchemical dream of turning lead to gold, water into wine.

When Securitization was invented it soon wrested control of the money supply away from nations and gave it to the banks. Nations still printed and controlled their currency. But securitization gave banks the ability to print their own currency. And this new securitized currency, based on debt, was theirs to print, control, spend, and ultimately to debase. In short, it gave banks a power to rival nations. It is worth, therefore, understanding its outlines at least. Please don’t panic. Like most financial stuff its not nearly as difficult as the priesthood would have you believe.

So here we go into the hocus-pocus world of debt finance.

The Banker’s problem.

We start with a debt. It could be a loan extended to a corporation or a mortgage. We’ll go with a mortgage. A mortgage is a debt and a promise to pay that debt. This was the bedrock of traditional banking. The bank lent out cash in return for a greater amount to be paid back, but in installments over 25-30 years. Of course over the years there were risks of inflation and default if the debtor lost their job or died. These are ‘credit risks’ that were the stuff of traditional banking.

Traditional ‘credit risk’ banking was a slow business – and that was the problem.

All debts were ‘held to maturity’ (to the end of the mortgage) by the bank. All the debts/mortgages were therefore dead end deals. In that they generally did not, could not, lead to anything else. Money went out. A debt was held in its place and the money slowly came back. The bank’s profit came from what was and is called, ‘the spread’ between the rate of interest the bank charges on the money it has lent out and the interest the bank pays on the money it borrows. The main places the banks ‘borrowed’ was from central banks, from investors – either share holders or bond holders and most importantly from their own depositors. You can see that the scope for banks to grow in size wealth and power, was constrained by the rate of flow of real money in to the bank and the turn over of loans.

For banking to really grow the amount of money to borrow and the turn-over of loans had to be increased. Securitization did both these things. It cut the umbilical to an older gentler age.

The last hold-out of the barter system.

In a funny way banking was the very last hold out of the barter system. The bank gave you money – very modern – but in return you gave the bank a lien/a claim on your property. You bartered your house and a promise to give a steady stream from your income as collateral for cash. You got cash from the deal which you could spend – and used it to buy the property. But the bank did not get cash. In fact it got something it could not spend. It got an agreement to pay. And you if the debt defaulted then the bank got a house. Now that is barter.

The genius of securitization finally did away with the barter element of banking. It did so by turning mortgages (debt agreement) into money. Nothing short of modern alchemy.

This is how it works.

The key difference between debt and money is that you can spend money. So what do you have to do to debt to be able to spend it?

Three things: Standardize it and Guarantee it and when you have done these two, the third, Liquefy it, will follow of its own accord.

So first -

Standardize it

Think of a pocket full of coins. What makes them work is that they are all the same. Same metal, same designs, same issuer, same bank behind them, same value. Everyone knows what they are getting when they accept a standard coin. So everyone is happy to accept them knowing that the next person will also be happy.

Now think of a mortgage. Now imagine you have a pocket full of these. Which banks do. Each one is unique. Unique amount, unique collateral (the house) and unique credit risks of the particular person paying back the loan. The skill of the banker was to assess all these variables. The short-coming was that the end product was a pocket full of different and unique debt agreements. Like having a pocket full of different coins in different currencies. Very difficult to get people to accept random coins as payment.

Step one in securitization is to deal with that problem. Basically by melting the mortgages down to their base metal and recasting them.

And recasting them does one other critical job.  The problem with mortgages its that sometimes the borrower defaults and the bank loses some of the money it lent out. To put it in terms of our coin analogy, in every pocket-full there will be one which turns out to be a tin plug. But which one?

Securitization solves this problem.

The failure rate of mortgages, any loan in fact, is a matter of probability. Melting down and recasting the mortgages spreads the loss evenly. If you expect one mortgage in every hundred to default that would mean anyone buying a mortgage from you would have a one in a hundred chance of getting the one that will deafult and end up with a worthless piece of paper. But in securitization all hunderd mortgages are sliced in to an hundred peices and each securitiy gets one piece each from each mortgage. Now when that one in a hundred defaults the loss is evenly spread.

Suddenly there is no unknown. There is a mathematically expressible probability that the whole pool will lose one hundredth of its value. That is easy to calculate into the value/worth/price of the bundle. And one hundredth of that loss will turn up in each of the recast slices. Mortgages go in. Securities come out. Each made from the melted and recast value of all the mortgages in the pot. Each is stamped into the same form with the same worth. You have convert unique debt agreements into a standard coinage of known value. Suddenly you have a pocket full of money.

Standardizing is the first step towards inventing a new form of money. You have ceased bartering your cash in return for a dead end debt, and instead converted the debt back into money. And rather fabulously this money YOU control. The central bank doesn’t control how much gets printed. You do. All you have to do is print up debt agreements and securitize them. And you can potentially print as much as you like whenever you like. It really is a license to print money.

That is a security in its simplest possible form. But if you would like to be able to spend this money you have to now guarantee it. Step two.

Guarantee it

All money that isn’t actually made of gold or silver is actually a promissory note or debt. It is debt issued by the central bank and backed by the CB’s and the Nation’s promise to honour that note. Weird isn’t it. Here we are talking about how to turn debt to money. When all along it’s actually how to turn one kind of debt into another one. The difference between the two debts is how spend-able it is. How spend-able it is, is sometimes called its fungability or liquidity. I only mention this so you know what is really meant when bankers use these terms.

Anyway back to the chase. Money is money because it is guaranteed by the central bank and the state, to be always, 100% of the time, worth what the coin or note says it is worth and therefore will always be accepted as payment. The question here, is how exactly does this promise work? What is it the CB is promising to do.

We often hear CB’s referred to as the lender of last resort. In many ways it is better to think of them as a buyer of last resort. In the final analysis the CB promise and guarantee ultimately means the CB will itself accept those coins from you. So YOU will never be left holding a worthless piece of paper or scrap of metal. You need never fear being left with worthless coins because the CB which issues the stuff guarantees to accept them, buy them back from you. As long as everyone knows this then no one is afraid to accept and hold the stuff. And this is the Liquidity of realm money.

What the CB will give you in return for the money you eventually tender back to them, is another knotty problem. At the least we, the CB would say, will accept our notes and coins as payment for any debts you have. (Now I know this doesn’t make the problem go away. But don’t blame me for the short-comings of money. They were problems before I came along!)

So for the purposes of our discussion here, when you tender a coin for payment, no one is going to say to you, “Oh, no thanks. I don’t trust those things. Haven’t you got something else?”

Except, of course, when the credibility of that CB guarantee itself is called into question – sovereign default. When that happens the spend-able value of those notes and coins evaporates like a kiss on the wind. Which is exactly the risk the Bank bail-outs are forcing on us all. Just ask the Greeks, Latvians and Icelanders.

This problem of a guarantee is a serious problem for securitization and for the shadow banking system. Because the shadow banking system and the system of securitization does not have access to the Central Banks and their ultimate promise ‘to accept as payment’. For the simple reason that the CB did not issue the securitized debt/money. So why should they promise? They do, of course, accept some of the securities as collateral for getting a loan of ‘real’ money. But the promise-to-buy is not without conditions and can be withdrawn. Securitized debt-money does not benefit from the guarantee that the CB will be the purchaser of last resort for their currency. Thus securities are NOT guaranteed the way the CB’s own money is.

So the question is, what promise or guarantee could the bankers come up with to take the place of the CB promise? Who or what could be the buyer of last resort to stand behind their securitized money?

The answer is ingenious and/or foolish depending on your temperament and the situation. In ‘good’ times the answer works. The problem is in bad times it doesn’t. AT ALL.

But in good times, the answer is that the ‘market’ promises to be the buyer of last resort. Now of course the market is also the issuer as well. Which makes it rather circular. But as long as everyone in the market – the banks, money market funds, pension funds, rating agencies will accept the securitized debt as money then there is your promise. There is no promise by one single all powerful God who will redeem all promises. In place there is a promise that in a vast market there will always be enough buyers to buy and redeem whatever the market needs to move. Redemption without God. Good trick.

You standardize the debts, you guarantee someone will always accept them as payment and you automatically get the last ingredient for free – liquidity. And with liquidity the whole thing runs like a mighty river.

The point is that unlike the original debt we now have a tradable asset that is a kind of currency. The more readily it can be sold the more ‘liquid’ it is as an asset and the more it is like money/cash. Which is a good trick. Because debt is a dead end. Whereas cash is the open road.

So in place of a single God-like promise, there is a market of groomed and powdered god-lets who collectively have pretensions to being a god – and this ‘market god’ ‘guarantees’ that there will always be some god-let who wants to buy securitized debt. Now you can see where all the talk of ‘frozen credit markets’ comes from. What they are really saying is that the ‘market’s’, the god-let’s, promise, turned out to be good only as long as it wasn’t really needed, when times were good, but was worthless as soon as it was needed. That detail was presumably somewhere in the very small print.

And indeed down in the small print you find out that the undeclared complication running through all is RISK. It was there when I said ‘one in a hundred mortgages will default’. Seemed so reasonable when I said it, didn’t it? That was where the devil crept in. Who says it is always one in a hundred?

This is where we get to all the AAA rating stuff. This is where the dark side of securitization lurks.

PART TWO TO FOLLOW.

How the Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

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Editor’s Comment:

Guest Writer:  Ellen Brown

Ellen is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com.  She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute.

How the Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis

The Goldman Sachs coup that failed in America has nearly succeeded in Europe – a permanent, irrevocable, unchallengeable bailout for the banks underwritten by the taxpayers.

In September 2008, Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, managed to extort a $700 billion bank bailout from Congress. But to pull it off, he had to fall on his knees and threaten the collapse of the entire global financial system and the imposition of martial law; and the bailout was a one-time affair. Paulson’s plea for a permanent bailout fund – the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP – was opposed by Congress and ultimately rejected.

By December 2011, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, former vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe, was able to approve a 500 billion euro bailout for European banks without asking anyone’s permission. And in January 2012, a permanent rescue funding program called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was passed in the dead of night with barely even a mention in the press. The ESM imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the ESM’s eurocrat overseers demand.

The bankers’ coup has triumphed in Europe seemingly without a fight. The ESM is cheered by euro zone governments, their creditors and “the market” alike, because it means investors will keep buying sovereign debt. All is sacrificed to the demands of the creditors, because where else can the money be had to float the crippling debts of the euro zone governments?

There is another alternative to debt slavery to the banks. But first, a closer look at the nefarious underbelly of the ESM and Goldman’s silent takeover of the ECB….

The Dark Side of the ESM

The ESM is a permanent rescue facility slated to replace the temporary European Financial Stability Facility and European Financial Stabilization Mechanism as soon as member states representing 90 percent of the capital commitments have ratified it, something that is expected to happen in July 2012. A December 2011 YouTube video titled “The shocking truth of the pending EU collapse!” originally posted in German, gives such a revealing look at the ESM that it is worth quoting here at length. It states:

The EU is planning a new treaty called the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM: a treaty of debt…. The authorized capital stock shall be 700 billion euros. Question: why 700 billion?… [Probable answer: it simply mimicked the $700 billion the US Congress bought into in 2008.][Article 9]: “,,, ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to pay on demand any capital call made on them … within seven days of receipt of such demand.” … If the ESM needs money, we have seven days to pay…. But what does “irrevocably and unconditionally” mean? What if we have a new parliament, one that does not want to transfer money to the ESM?…

[Article 10]: “The Board of Governors may decide to change the authorized capital and amend Article 8 … accordingly.” Question: … 700 billion is just the beginning? The ESM can stock up the fund as much as it wants to, any time it wants to? And we would then be required under Article 9 to irrevocably and unconditionally pay up?

[Article 27, lines 2-3]: “The ESM, its property, funding and assets … shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process…. ” Question: So the ESM program can sue us, but we can’t challenge it in court?

[Article 27, line 4]: “The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall … be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation, or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.” Question: … [T]his means that neither our governments, nor our legislatures, nor any of our democratic laws have any effect on the ESM organization? That’s a pretty powerful treaty!

[Article 30]: “Governors, alternate Governors, Directors, alternate Directors, the Managing Director and staff members shall be immune from legal process with respect to acts performed by them … and shall enjoy inviolability in respect of their official papers and documents.” Question: So anyone involved in the ESM is off the hook? They can’t be held accountable for anything? … The treaty establishes a new intergovernmental organization to which we are required to transfer unlimited assets within seven days if it so requests, an organization that can sue us but is immune from all forms of prosecution and whose managers enjoy the same immunity. There are no independent reviewers and no existing laws apply? Governments cannot take action against it? Europe’s national budgets in the hands of one single unelected intergovernmental organization? Is that the future of Europe? Is that the new EU – a Europe devoid of sovereign democracies?

The Goldman Squid Captures the ECB

Last November, without fanfare and barely noticed in the press, former Goldman executive Mario Draghi replaced Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the ECB. Draghi wasted no time doing for the banks what the ECB has refused to do for its member governments – lavish money on them at very cheap rates. French blogger Simon Thorpe reports:

On the 21st of December, the ECB “lent” 489 billion euros to European Banks at the extremely generous rate of just 1% over 3 years. I say “lent,” but in reality, they just ran the printing presses. The ECB doesn’t have the money to lend. It’s Quantitative Easing again.The money was gobbled up virtually instantaneously by a total of 523 banks. It’s complete madness. The ECB hopes that the banks will do something useful with it – like lending the money to the Greeks, who are currently paying 18% to the bond markets to get money. But there are absolutely no strings attached. If the banks decide to pay bonuses with the money, that’s fine. Or they might just shift all the money to tax havens.

At 18 percent interest, debt doublesin just four years. It is this onerous interest burden – not the debt itself – that is crippling Greece and other debtor nations. Thorpe proposes the obvious solution:

Why not lend the money to the Greek government directly? Or to the Portuguese government, currently having to borrow money at 11.9%? Or the Hungarian government, currently paying 8.53%. Or the Irish government, currently paying 8.51%? Or the Italian government, who are having to pay 7.06%?

The stock objection to that alternative is that Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty prevents the ECB from lending to governments. But Thorpe reasons:

My understanding is that Article 123 is there to prevent elected governments from abusing Central Banks by ordering them to print money to finance excessive spending. That, we are told, is why the ECB has to be independent from governments. OK. But what we have now is a million times worse. The ECB is now completely in the hands of the banking sector. “We want half a billion of really cheap money!!” they say. OK, no problem. Mario is here to fix that. And no need to consult anyone. By the time the ECB makes the announcement, the money has already disappeared.

At least if the ECB was working under the supervision of elected governments, we would have some influence when we elect those governments. But the bunch that now has their grubby hands on the instruments of power are now totally out of control.

Goldman Sachs and the financial technocrats have taken over the European ship. Democracy has gone out the window, all in the name of keeping the central bank independent from the “abuses” of government. Yet, the government is the people – or it should be. A democratically elected government represents the people. Europeans are being hoodwinked into relinquishing their cherished democracy to a rogue band of financial pirates, and the rest of the world is not far behind.

Rather than ratifying the draconian ESM treaty, Europeans would be better advised to reverse Article 123 of the Lisbon treaty. Then, the ECB could issue credit directly to its member governments. Alternatively, euro zone governments could re-establish their economic sovereignty by reviving their publicly owned central banks and using them to issue the credit of the nation for the benefit of the nation, effectively interest free. This is not a new idea, but has been used historically to very good effect, e.g. in Australia through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and in Canada through the Bank of Canada.

Today, the issuance of money and credit has become the private right of vampire rentiers, who are using it to squeeze the lifeblood out of economies. This right needs to be returned to sovereign governments. Credit should be a public utility, dispensed and managed for the benefit of the people.

To add your signature to a letter to parliamentarians blocking ratification of the ESM, click here.

Lawyers Take Note: Wells Fargo Slammed With $3.1 Million Punitive Damages on One Wrongful Foreclosure

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GARFIELD PROPOSES NATIONAL LAW FIRM FOR COUNTER-ATTACK

Editor’s Comment: 

The most perplexing part of this mortgage mess has been the unwillingness of the legal community to take on the Banks. Besides the intimidation factor the primary source of resistance has been the lack of confidence that any money could be made, ESPECIALLY on contingency. If you were the lawyer in the case reported below, you would be getting a check for fees alone of over $1.2 million on a single case. And as this article and hundreds of others have reported, based upon objective surveys, most of the 5 million homes lost since 2007 were wrongful foreclosures.

So the inventory for lawyers is 5 million homes plus the next 5 million everyone is expecting. Let’s due some simple arithmetic: if 4 million homes were wrongfully foreclosed and the punitive damages were $1 million per house the total take would be $4 Billion with contingency fees at $1.6 Billion. If each house carried $200,000 in compensatory damages, then the total would be increased by $800 Million with Lawyers taking home $320 Million. These figures exceed personal injury and malpractice awards. Why is the legal profession ignoring this opportunity to do something right and make a fortune at the same time?

Right now I’m a little under the weather (open heart surgery) but that hasn’t stopped my associates from rolling out a plan for a national anti-foreclosure firm. I’m only doing this because nobody else will. If you have had a home wrongfully foreclosed or suspect that your current foreclosure is wrongful, write to NeilFGarfield@hotmail.com (remember the “F”) and ask for help. Lawyers and victims of wrongful foreclosures should be able to pool their resources to attack the massive foreclosure attack with a massive anti-foreclosure attack.

Wells Fargo Slapped With $3.1 Million Fine For ‘Reprehensible’ Handling Of One Mortgage

Ben Hallman

A federal judge who has fiercely criticized how big banks service home loans is fed up with Wells Fargo.

In a scathing opinion issued last week, Elizabeth Magner, a federal bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana, characterized as “highly reprehensible” Wells Fargo’s behavior over more than five years of litigation with a single homeowner and ordered the bank to pay the New Orleans man a whopping $3.1 million in punitive damages, one of the biggest fines ever for mortgage servicing misconduct.

“Wells Fargo has taken advantage of borrowers who rely on it to accurately apply payments and calculate the amounts owed,” Magner writes. “But perhaps more disturbing is Wells Fargo’s refusal to voluntarily correct its errors. It prefers to rely on the ignorance of borrowers or their inability to fund a challenge to its demands, rather than voluntarily relinquish gains obtained through improper accounting methods.”

The opinion reflects Magner’s disgust with tactics that Wells Fargo used to fight the case — and perhaps frustration with an appeals court ruling in a separate, but similar case, that overturned her order that would have forced Wells Fargo to audit and provide a full accounting for more than 400 home loans in her jurisdiction.

As The Huffington Post previously reported in a story co-published with The Center for Public Integrity, sources familiar with the preliminary findings said that the bank made costly accounting errors in the administration of practically all of those loans.

In an emailed statement, Tom Goyda, a Wells Fargo spokesman said: “The ruling handed down by the court in an individual bankruptcy case covers allegations going back more than six years and ignores significant changes in servicing practices that have occurred since that time. We believe that there are numerous factual and legal problems with the opinion and are reviewing our options regarding an appropriate legal response.”

Goyda said that an appeal of the ruling is “one option” the bank is considering.

Despite widespread reports that the banks and other companies that service home loans engaged in a range of misconduct — from ordering unnecessary property inspections to misapplying payments in a way that can lead to wrongful foreclosure — few judges have had the time, ability or inclination to do the kind of forensic analysis necessary to uncover wrongdoing in individual cases. For a non-accountant, reading a loan history is like interpreting hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone, and banks are often reluctant to turn them over in the first place.

The exceptions have tended to come in federal bankruptcy courts, where justices typically have more time to dig into loan accounts, and are much more likely to have the financial expertise necessary to do so. In an earlier interview, Magner said that she analyzed the loan files of more than 20 borrowers in her court and found mistakes in every instance.

“These are loans of working-class people who bought homes they could afford and whose loans were not administered correctly from an accounting perspective,” she said. “I think that these types of problems occur in almost every [defaulted] loan in the country.”

The current case involves Michael Jones of New Orleans. In a 2007 decision, Magner ruled that Wells Fargo improperly charged Jones more than $24,000 in fees, owing to a fundamental problem in the automated methodology the bank used to account for his loan payments.

After Jones fell into default, Magner ruled, the bank improperly applied his mortgage payments to interest and fees that had accrued instead of to principal, as required by his servicing contract. This triggered a waterfall of additional fees and interest that consumer lawyers call “rolling default.” Later, after Jones applied for bankruptcy, the bank continued to misapply payments, according to Magner’s opinion.

In the most recent opinion, Magner describes Wells Fargo’s litigation tactics, which involved filing dozens of briefs, motions and other filings that slowed down the proceedings to a snail’s pace, as “particularly vexing.” The tactics suggest that any other borrower who might wish to contest a fee or charge would find a legal challenge to the bank simply too burdensome.

And yet, Magner writes, it is only through litigation that the abuses can be uncovered. Calling Wells Fargo’s conduct “clandestine,” Magner wrote that the bank refused to communicate with Jones even as it was misdirecting payments for improper purposes.

“Only through litigation was this practice discovered,” Magner writes. “Wells Fargo admitted to the same practices for all other loans in bankruptcy or default. As a result, it is unlikely that most debtors will be able to discern problems with their accounts without extensive discovery.”

Magner wrote that the bank still refuses to come clean with homeowners about mistakes it made in the accounting of home loans. This is particularly troublesome in her district, where more than 80 percent of the borrowers who file for bankruptcy have incomes of less than $40,000, and consequently are often unable to hire the kind of legal firepower necessary to counter Wells Fargo’s army of lawyers.

“[W]hen exposed, [Wells Fargo] revealed its true corporate character by denying any obligation to correct its past transgressions and mounting a legal assault ensure it never had to,” Magner wrote.

How Wall Street Perverted the 4 Cs of Mortgage Underwriting

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Editor’s Comment: 

For thousands of years since the dawn of money credit has been an integral part of the equation.  Anytime a person, company or institution takes your money or valuables in exchange for a promise that it will return your money or property or pay it to someone else (like in a check) credit is involved.  Most bank customers do not realize that they are creditors of the bank in which they deposit their money.  But all of them recognize that on some level they need to know or believe that the bank will be able to make good on its promise to honor the check or pay the money as instructed. 

Most people who use banks to hold their money do so in the belief that the bank has a history of being financially stable and always honoring withdrawals.  Some depositors may look a little further to see what the balance sheet of the bank looks like.   Of course the first thing they look at is the amount of cash shown on the balance sheet so that a perspective depositor can make an intelligent decision about the liquidity or availability of the funds they deposit. 

So the depositor is in essence lending money to the bank upon the assumption of repayment based upon the operating history of the bank, the cash in the bank and any other collateral (like FDIC guarantees).

As it turns out these are the 4 Cs of loan underwriting which has been followed since the first person was given money to hold and issued a paper certificate in exchange. The paper certificate was intended to be used as either a negotiable instrument for payment in a far away land or for withdrawal when directly presented to the person who took the money and issued the promise on paper to return it.

Eventually some people developed good reputations for safe keeping the money.  Those that developed good reputations were allowed by the depositors to keep the money for longer and longer periods.  After a while, the persons holding the money (now called banks) realized that in addition to charging a fee to the depositor they could use the depositor’s money to lend out to other people.  The good banks correctly calculated the probable amount of time for the original depositor to ask for his money back and adjusted loan terms to third parties that would be due before the depositor demanded his money.

The banks adopted the exact same strategy as the depositors.  The 4 Cs of underwriting a loan—Capacity, Credit, Cash and Collateral—are the keystones of conventional loan underwriting. 

The capacity of a borrower is determined by their ability to repay the debt without reference to any other source or collateral.  For the most part, banks successfully followed this model until the late 1990s when they discovered that losing money could be more profitable than making money.  In order to lose money they obviously had to invert the ratios they used to determine the capacity of the borrower to repay the money.  To accomplish this, they needed to trick or deceive the borrower into believing that he was getting a loan that he could repay, when in fact the bank knew that he could not repay it.  To create maximum confusion for borrowers the number of home loan products grew from a total of 5 different types of loans in 1974 to a total of 456 types of loans in 2006.  Thus the bank was assured that a loss could be claimed on the loan and that the borrower would be too confused to understand how the loss had occurred.  As it turned out the regulators had the same problem as the borrowers and completely missed the obscure way in which the banks sought to declare losses on residential loans.

Like the depositor who is trusting the bank based upon its operating history, the bank normally places its trust in the borrower to repay the loan based upon the borrowers operating history which is commonly referred to as their credit worthiness, credit score or credit history.  Like the capacity of the borrower this model was used effectively until the late 1990s when it too was inverted.  The banks discovered that a higher risk of non-payment was directly related to the “reasonableness” of charging a much higher interest rate than prevailing rates.  This created profits, fees and premiums of previously unimaginable proportions.  The bank’s depositors were expecting a very low rate of interest in exchange for what appeared as a very low risk of nonpayment from the bank.  By lending the depositor’s money to high risk borrowers whose interest rate was often expressed in multiples of the rate paid to depositors, the banks realized they could loan much less in principal than the amount given to them by the depositor leaving an enormous profit for the bank.  The only way the bank could lose money under this scenario would be if the loan was actually repaid.  Since some loans would be repaid, the banks instituted a power in the master servicer to declare a pool of loans to be in default even if many of the individual loans were not in default.  This declaration of default was passed along to investors (depositors) and borrowers alike where eventually both would in many, if not most cases, perceive the investment as a total loss without any knowledge that the banks had succeeded in grabbing “profits” that were illegal and improper regardless if one referred to common law or statutory law.

Capacity and credit are usually intertwined with the actual or stated income of the borrower.  Most borrowers and unfortunately most attorneys are under the mistaken belief that an inflated income shown on the application for the loan, subjects the borrower to potential liability for fraud.  In fact, the reverse is true.  Because of the complexity of real estate transactions, a history of common law dating back hundreds of years together with modern statutory law, requires the lender to perform due diligence in verifying the ability of the borrower to repay the loan and in assessing the viability of the loan.  Some loans had a teaser rate of a few hundred dollars per month.  The bank had full knowledge that the amount of the monthly payment would change to an amount exceeding the gross income of the borrower.   In actuality the loan had a lifespan that could only be computed by reference to the date of closing and the date that payments reset.  The illusion of a 30-year loan along with empty promises of refinancing in a market that would always increase in value, led borrowers to accept prices that were at times a multiple of the value of the property or the value of the loan.  Banks have at their fingertips numerous websites in which they can confirm the likelihood of a perspective borrower to repay the loan simply by knowing the borrower’s occupation and geographical location.  Instead, they allowed mortgage brokers to insert absurd income amounts in occupations which never generate those levels of income.  In fact, we have seen acceptance and funding of loans based upon projected income from investments that had not yet occurred where the perspective investment was part of a scam in which the mortgage broker was intimately involved.  See Merendon Mining scandal.

The Cash component of the 4 Cs.  Either you have cash or you don’t have cash.  If you don’t have cash, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would consider a substantial loan much less a deposit into a bank that was obviously about to go out of business.   This rule again was followed for centuries until the 1990s when the banks replaced the requirement of cash from the borrower with a second loan or even a third loan in order to “seal the deal”.  In short, the cash requirement was similarily inverted from past practices.  The parties involved at the closing table were all strawmen performing fees for service.  The borrower believed that a loan underwriting was taking place wherein a party was named on the note as the lender and also named in the security instrument as the secured party. The borrower believed that the closing could never have occurred but for the finding by the “underwriting lender” that the loan was proper and viable.  The people at the closing table other than the borrower, all knew that the loan was neither proper nor viable.  In many cases the borrower had just enough cash to move into a new house and perhaps purchase some window treatments.  Since the same credit game was being played at furniture stores and on credit cards, more money was given to the borrower to create fictitious transactions in which furniture, appliances, and home improvements were made at the encouragement of retailers and loan brokers.  Hence the cash requirement was also inverted from a positive to a negative with full knowledge by the alleged bank who didn’t bother to pass this knowledge on to its “depositors” (actually, investors in bogus mortgage bonds). 

Collateral is the last of the 4 Cs in conventional loan underwriting.  Collateral is used in the event that the party responsible for repayment fails to make the repayment and is unable to cure it or work out the difference with the bank.  In the case of depositors, the collateral is often viewed as the full faith and credit of the United States government as expressed by the bank’s membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  For borrowers collateral refers to property which they pledge can be used or sold to satisfy obligation to repay the loan.  Normally banks send one or even two or three appraisers to visit real estate which is intended to be used as collateral.  The standard practice lenders used was to apply the lower appraisals as the basis for the maximum amount that they would lend.  The banks understood that the higher appraisals represented a higher risk that they would lose money in the event that the borrower failed to repay the loan and property values declined.  This principal was also used for hundreds of years until the 1990s when the banks, operating under the new business model described above, started to run out of people who could serve as borrowers.  Since the deposits (purchases of mortgage bonds) were pouring in, the banks either had to return the deposits or use a portion of the deposits to fund mortgages regardless of the quality of the mortgage, the cash, the collateral, the capacity or any other indicator that a normal reasonable business person would use.  The solution was to inflate the appraisals of the real estate by presenting appraisers with “an offer they couldn’t refuse”.  Either the appraiser came in with an appraisal of the real property at least $20,000 above the price being used in the contract or the appraiser would never work again.  By inflating the appraisals the banks were able to move more money and of course “earn” more fees and profits. 

The appraisals were the weakest link in the false scheme of securitization launched by the banks and still barely understood by regulators.  As the number of potential borrowers dwindled and even with the help of developers raising their prices by as much as 20% per month the appearance of a rising market collapsed in the absence of any more buyers.

Since all the banks involved were holding an Ace High Straight Flush, they were able to place bets using insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements wherein a movement of as little as 8% in the value of a pool would result in the collapse of the entire pool.  This created the appearance of losses to the banks which they falsely presented to the U.S. government as a threat to the financial system and the financial security of the United States.  Having succeeded in terrorizing the executive and legislative branches and the Federal Reserve system, the banks realized that they still had a new revenue generator.  By manufacturing additional losses the government or the Federal Reserve would fund those losses under the mistaken belief that the losses were real and that the country’s future was at stake.  In fact, the country’s future is now at stake because of the perversion of the basic rules of commerce and lending stated above.  The assumption that the economy or the housing market can recover without undoing the fraud perpetrated by the banks is dangerous and false.  It is dangerous because more than 17 trillion dollars in “relief” to the banks has been provided to cover mortgage defaults which are at most estimated at 2.6 trillion.  The advantage given to the megabanks who accepted this surplus “aid” has made it difficult for community banks and credit unions to operate or compete.   The assumption is false because there is literally not enough money in the world to accomplish the dual objectives of allowing the banks to keep their ill gotten gains and providing the necessary stimulus and rebuilding of our physical and educational infrastructure.  

The simple solution that is growing more and more complex is the only way that the U.S. can recover.  With the same effort that it took in 1941 to convert an isolationist largely unarmed United States to the most formidable military power on the planet, the banks who perpetrated this fraud should be treated as terrorists with nothing less than unconditional surrender as the outcome.  The remaining 7,000 community banks and credit unions together with the existing infrastructure for electronic funds transfer will easily allow the rest of the banking community to resume normal activity and provide the capital needed for a starving economy. 

See article:  www.kcmblog.com/2012/04/05/the-4-cs-of-mortgage-underwriting-2

Student Loans Are The Next Major Crack in Our Finance

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Disclosure to Student Borrowers: www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/opinion/sunday/disclosure-to-student-borrowers.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

Editor’s Comment: 

“We have created a world of finance in which it is more lucrative to lose money and get paid by the government, than to make money and contribute to society.  In the Soviet Union the government ostensibly owned everything; in America the government is a vehicle for the banks to own everything.”—Neil F Garfield LivingLies.me

While the story below is far too kind to both Dimon and JPMorgan, it hits the bulls-eye on the current trends. And if we think that it will stop at student loans we are kidding ourselves or worse. The entire student loan mess, totaling more than $1 trillion now, was again caused by the false use of Securitzation, the abuse of government guaranteed loans, and the misinterpretation of the rules governing discharge ability of debt in bankruptcy.

First we had student loans in which the government provided financing so that our population would maintain its superior position of education, innovation and the brains of the world in getting technological and mechanical things to work right, work well and create new opportunities.

Then the banks moved in and said we will provide the loans. But there was a catch. Instead of the “private student” loan being low interest, it became a vehicle for raising rates to credit card levels — meaning the chance of anyone being able to repay the loan principal was correspondingly diminished by the increase in the payments of interest.

So the banks made sure that they couldn’t lose money by (a) selling off the debt in securitization packages and (b) passing along the government guarantee of the debt.  This was combined with the nondischargability of the debt in bankruptcy to the investors who purchased these seemingly high value high yielding bonds from noncapitalized entities that had absolutely no capacity to pay off the bonds.  The only way these issuers of student debt bonds could even hope to pay the interest or the principal was by using the investors’ own money, or by receiving the money from one of several sources — only one of which was the student borrower.

The fact that the banks managed to buy congressional support to insert themselves into the student loan process is stupid enough. But things got worse than that for the students, their families and the taxpayers. It’s as though the courts got stupid when these exotic forms of finance hit the market.

Here is the bottom line: students who took private loans were encouraged and sold on an aggressive basis to borrow money not only for tuition and books, but for housing and living expenses that could have been covered in part by part-time work. So, like the housing mess, Wall Street was aggressively selling money based upon eventual taxpayer bailouts.

Next, the banks, disregarding the reason for government guaranteed loans or exemption from discharge ability of student loan debt, elected to change the risk through securitization. Not only were the banks not on the hook, but they were once again betting on what they already knew — there was no way these loans were going to get repaid because the amount of the loans far exceeded the value of the potential jobs. In short, the same story as appraisal fraud of the homes, where the prices of homes and loans were artificially inflated while the values were declining at precipitous rate.

Like the housing fraud, the securitization was merely trick accounting without any real documentation or justification.  There are two final results that should happen but can’t because Congress is virtually owned by the banks. First, the guarantee should not apply if the risk intended to be protected is no longer present or has significantly changed. And second, with the guarantee gone, there is no reason to maintain the exemption by which student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Based on current law and cases, these are obvious conclusions that will be probably never happen. Instead, the banks will claim losses that are not their own, collect taxpayer guarantees or bailouts, and receive proceeds of insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements.

Congratulations. We have created a world of finance in which it is more lucrative to lose money and get paid by the government, than to make money and contribute to the society for which these banks are allowed to exist ostensibly for the purpose of providing capital to a growing economy. So the economy is in the toilet and the government keeps paying the banks to slap us.

Did JPMorgan Pop The Student Loan Bubble?

Back in 2006, contrary to conventional wisdom, many financial professionals were well aware of the subprime bubble, and that the trajectory of home prices was unsustainable. However, because there was no way to know just when it would pop, few if any dared to bet against the herd (those who did, and did so early despite all odds, made greater than 100-1 returns). Fast forward to today, when the most comparable to subprime, cheap credit-induced bubble, is that of student loans (for extended literature on why the non-dischargeable student loan bubble will “create a generation of wage slavery” read this and much of the easily accessible literature on the topic elsewhere) which have now surpassed $1 trillion in notional. Yet oddly enough, just like in the case of the subprime bubble, so in the ongoing expansion of the credit bubble manifested in this case by student loans, we have an early warning that the party is almost over, coming from the most unexpected of sources: JPMorgan.

Recall that in October 2006, 5 months before New Century started the March 2007 collapsing dominoes that ultimately translated to the bursting of both the housing and credit bubbles several short months later, culminating with the failure of Bear, Lehman, AIG, The Reserve Fund, and the near end of capitalism ‘we know it’, it was JPMorgan who sounded a red alert, and proceeded to pull entirely out of the Subprime space. From Fortune, two weeks before the Lehman failure: “It was the second week of October 2006. William King, then J.P. Morgan’s chief of securitized products, was vacationing in Rwanda. One evening CEO Jamie Dimon tracked him down to fire a red alert. “Billy, I really want you to watch out for subprime!” Dimon’s voice crackled over King’s hotel phone. “We need to sell a lot of our positions. I’ve seen it before. This stuff could go up in smoke!” Dimon was right (as was Goldman, but that’s another story), while most of his competitors piled on into this latest ponzi scheme of epic greed, whose only resolution would be a wholesale taxpayer bailout. We all know how that chapter ended (or hasn’t – after all everyone is still demanding another $1 trillion from the Fed at least to get their S&P limit up fix, and then another, and another). And now, over 5 years later, history repeats itself: JPM is officially getting out of student loans. If history serves, what happens next will not be pretty.

American Banker brings us the full story:

U.S. Bancorp (USB) is pulling out of the private student loans market and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is sharply reducing its lending, as banking regulators step up their scrutiny of the products.

JPMorgan Chase will limit student lending to existing customers starting in July, a bank spokesman told American Banker on Friday. The bank laid off 24 employees who make sales calls to colleges as part of its decision.

The official reason:

“The private student loan market is continuing to decline, so we decided to focus on Chase customers,” spokesman Thomas Kelly says.

Ah yes, focusing on customers, and providing liquidity no doubt, courtesy of Blythe Masters. Joking aside, what JPMorgan is explicitly telling us is that it can’t make money lending out to the one group of the population where demand for credit money is virtually infinite (after all 46% of America’s 16-24 year olds are out of a job: what else are they going to?), and furthermore, with debt being non-dischargable, this is about as safe a carry trade as any, even when faced with the prospect of bankruptcy. What JPM is implicitly saying, is that the party is over, and all private sector originators are hunkering down, in anticipation of the hammer falling. Or if they aren’t, they should be.

JPM is not alone:

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank sent a letter to participating colleges and universities saying that it would no longer be accepting student loan applications as of March 29, a spokesman told American Banker on Friday.

“We are in fact exiting the private student lending business,” U.S. Bank spokesman Thomas Joyce said, adding that the bank’s business was too small to be worthwhile.

“The reasoning is we’re a very small player, less than 1.5% of market share,” Joyce adds. “It’s a very small business for the bank, and we’ve decided to make a strategic shift and move resources.”

Which, however, is not to say that there will be no source of student loans. On Friday alone we found out that in February the US government added another $11 billion in student debt to the Federal tally, a run-rate which is now well over $10 billion a month an accelerating: a rate of change which is almost as great as the increase in Apple market cap. So who will be left picking up the pieces? Why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, funded by none other than Ben Bernanke, and headed by the same Richard Cordray that Obama shoved into his spot over Republican protests, when taking advantage of a recessed Congress.

“What we are likely to see over the next few months is a lot of private education lenders rethinking the product, particularly if it appears that the CFPB is going to become more activist,” says Kevin Petrasic, a partner with law firm Paul Hastings.

“Historically there’s been a patchwork of regulation towards private student lenders,” he adds. “The CFPB allows for a more uniform and consistent approach and identification of the issues. It also provides a network, effectively a data-gathering base that is going to enable the agency to get all the stories that are out there.”

The CFPB recently began accepting student loan complaints on its website.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of emphasis and focus … in terms of what is deemed to be fair and what is over the line with collections and marketing,” Petrasic says, warning that “the challenge for the CFPB in this area is going to be trying to figure out how to set consumer protection standards without essentially eviscerating availability of the product.”

And with all private players stepping out very actively, it only leaves the government, with its extensive system of ‘checks and balances’, to hand out loans to America’s ever more destitute students, with the reckless abandon of a Wells Fargo NINJA-specialized loan officer in 2005. What will be hilarious in 2014, when taxpayers are fuming at the latest multi-trillion bailout, now that we know that $270 billion in student loans are at least 30 days delinquent which can only have one very sad ending, is that the government will have no evil banker scapegoats to blame loose lending standards on. And why would they: after all it is this administration’s sworn Keynesian duty to make every student a debt slave in perpetuity, but only after they buy a lifetime supply of iPads. Then again by 2014 we will have far greater problems (and for most in the administration, it will be “someone else’s problem”).

For now, our advice – just do what Jamie Dimon is doing: duck and hide for cover.

Oh, and if there is a cheap student loan synthetic short out there, which has the same upside potential as the ABX did in late 2006, please advise.

Banks Cover Up Their Actual Losses and Insolvency

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Editor’s Note: It isn’t just the Banks that are covering up the fact that those “assets” on their balance sheet are not assets and never were owned by the Banks. The underlying threat here is that the loss is going to hit pension funds and other “investors” in RMBS whose money was used to fund mortgages (after the investment banks took a huge bite out of the pool of funds as “trading profits”). Pensioners are already getting notices of cutbacks and even elimination of the pension benefits.

This is all brought to you by the makers of such accounting tricks like “off balance sheet transactions.” Try telling your boss that the money you stole was an off balance sheet transaction and see if that covers it — or if you end up a guest of the state or federal government in prison.

RMBS Losses in Limbo: As Bad As They Seem, The Reality May Be Much Worse

By Ann Rutledge | Published: January 25, 2012

Since the financial crisis in 2007, residential mortgage-backed securities have been hit with high levels of borrower defaults, realized losses and credit rating downgrades.  Realized losses declared on private residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), already much higher than original rating agency and investor estimates, are projected to rise substantially in the coming months, according to a recent analysis by R&R Consulting, a credit rating and valuation firm in New York.

On the securities performing at December 2011, a universe of approximately $1.42 trillion, R&R estimate the amount of additional losses likely to materialize is $300 billion, with one-third concentrated in ten arranger names, including Countrywide, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. About 17,000 tranches, or 34% of the universe analyzed by R&R, may lose up to 83% of their remaining principal.

In addition, R&R estimates that approximately $175 billion of losses already incurred on the loans have not yet been allocated to the bonds in the related transactions. Failure to allocate realized loan losses could distort the valuation of related RMBS tranches.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is still a long way off for RMBS,” said Iuliia Palamar, head of ABS research for R&R.  “We are now drilling down into the analysis to identify the individual transactions by vintage, servicer and other important issues with respect to these losses.”

Unallocated Losses by Security VintageUnallocated Losses by Security Vintage

In the course of conducting valuations on RMBS, the R&R analytics team discovered widespread, serious, repeated data discrepancies. Ann Rutledge, a founding principal, asked the team to measure the magnitude of the discrepancy on the RMBS universe. To do this, R&R subtracted cumulative losses allocated to the tranches from unallocated, expected losses, calculated as the sum of defaults, bankruptcies, foreclosures and REOs minus recoveries. “The results were very disturbing: $175 billion of unallocated current losses and $300 billion of imminent losses,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge commented that she was not clear why these losses are being held in limbo instead of being properly allocated, since the data used by R&R in the calculations were included in the servicer reports. She cautioned, “Investors should be concerned about receiving inaccurate bond performance information and paying unnecessary fees.”

The implication for bond holders in RMBS is significant with respect to both estimates.  Subordinated securities in the RMBS with probable future losses ought to be written down by such losses but instead may be continuing to receive interest owed to more senior tranches. It could also mean that servicers are earning fees against loans that have already been liquidated, which also reduces the amount of cash to pay senior bond holders.  For example, in one month, servicers could generate $75 million or more in inappropriate fees against the $175 billion in unallocated losses.

Rutledge also noted that R&R has observed a steady increase in amount of limbo losses, raising the prospect that a significant amount of funds are still being misallocated for bond investors.

“The system for MBS is still fundamentally broken,” she said. “All the loose ends need to be identified and knit together into a well-functioning system before investors can feel comfortable investing in RMBS once more.”

R&R Consulting is a credit rating and valuation boutique. Founded in 2000, R&R has a patented process for obtaining current intrinsic valuations on structured securities in the secondary market.

Inquiries should contact Iuliia Palamar at +12128675693 or iuliia@creditspectrum.com

 

DOJ INVESTIGATION: “OPERATION STOLEN DREAMS”

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Arthur Schack, a state court judge in Brooklyn, in a 2010 ruling said that pleadings by the Baum firm on behalf of HSBC Bank, a unit of London-based HSBC Holdings HSBA.L, in a foreclosure case were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.” Another state judge that year imposed $5,000 in sanctions and ordered the firm to pay $14,500 in attorneys’ fees, ruling that “misrepresentation of the material statements here was outrageous.”

Wells Fargo “took the law into its own hands” and disregarded laws banning perjury, Judge Margaret A. Mahoney declared. And in thousands of cases, documents required to transfer ownership of mortgages have been falsified. Lacking originals needed to foreclose, mortgage servicers drew up new ones, falsely signed by their own staff as employees of the original lenders – many of which no longer exist.

 

By Scot Paltrow, REUTERS

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Four years after the banking system nearly collapsed from reckless mortgage lending, federal prosecutors have stayed on the sidelines, even as judges around the country are pointing fingers at possible wrongdoing.

The federal government, as has been widely noted, has pressed few criminal cases against major lenders or senior executives for the events that led to the meltdown of 2007. Finding hard evidence has proved difficult, the Justice Department has said.

The government also hasn’t brought any prosecutions for dubious foreclosure practices deployed since 2007 by big banks and other mortgage-servicing companies. But this part of the financial system, a Reuters examination shows, is filled with potential leads:

 

Foreclosure-related case files in just one New York federal bankruptcy court, for example, hold at least a dozen mortgage documents known as promissory notes bearing evidence of recently forged signatures and illegal alterations, according to a judge’s rulings and records reviewed by Reuters. Similarly altered notes have appeared in courts around the country.

Banks in the past two years have foreclosed on the houses of thousands of active-duty U.S. soldiers who are legally eligible to have foreclosures halted. Refusing to grant foreclosure stays is a misdemeanor under federal law. The U.S. Treasury confirmed in November that it is conducting a civil investigation of 4,500 such foreclosures. Attorneys representing service members estimate banks have foreclosed on up to 30,000 military personnel in potential violation of the law.

In Alabama, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled last month that Wells Fargo & Co. WFC.N had filed at least 630 sworn affidavits containing false “facts,” including claims that homeowners were in arrears for amounts not yet due.

Wells Fargo “took the law into its own hands” and disregarded laws banning perjury, Judge Margaret A. Mahoney declared. And in thousands of cases, documents required to transfer ownership of mortgages have been falsified. Lacking originals needed to foreclose, mortgage servicers drew up new ones, falsely signed by their own staff as employees of the original lenders – many of which no longer exist.

But the mortgage-foreclosure mess has yet to yield any federal prosecution against the big banks that are the major servicers of home loans.

UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD

Reuters has identified one pending federal criminal investigation into suspected improper foreclosure procedures. That inquiry has been under way since 2009.

The investigation focuses on a defunct subsidiary of Jacksonville, Florida-based Lender Processing Services, the nation’s largest subcontractor of mortgage servicing duties for banks. People close to the investigation said indictments may come as early as the end of this month. Nationwide press reports had showed photos of what appeared to be obviously forged signatures on foreclosure affidavits.

The Justice Department doesn’t disclose pending investigations, making it impossible to say if other criminal inquiries are underway. Officials in state attorneys’ general offices and lawyers in foreclosure cases say they have seen no signs of any other federal criminal investigation. “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history,” said Raymond Brescia, a visiting professor at Yale Law School who has written articles analyzing the role of courts in the financial crisis. “I can’t think of one where you have literally tens of thousands of fraudulent documents filed in tens of thousands of cases.”

Spokesmen for the five largest servicers – Bank of America Corp. BAC.N, Wells Fargo & Co., JP Morgan Chase & Co JPM.N, Citigroup Inc. C.N, and Ally Financial Group – declined to comment about the possibility of widespread fraud for this article. Paul Leonard, spokesman for the Housing Policy Council, whose membership includes those banks, said any faults in foreclosure cases are being addressed under a civil settlement earlier this year with federal regulators.

FALSE STATEMENTS

Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials say they have brought mortgage-fraud criminal cases through their “Operation Stolen Dreams.” None, however, were against big banks. All targeted small-scale operators who allegedly defrauded banks with forged mortgage applications or took advantage of homeowners by falsely promising arrangements to get them out of default and then pocketing their money.

Justice Department spokeswoman Adora Andy declined to comment on the absence of prosecutions for foreclosure practices by big banks. She said in a statement: “The Department of Justice has been and will continue to aggressively investigate financial fraud wherever it occurs, including at all levels of the mortgage industry and, when we find evidence of a crime, we will not hesitate to pursue it.”

Some judges have accused banks of falsely stating in court that they are working on loan modifications for homeowners in default.

In a Nov. 30 court hearing, not previously reported, a federal bankruptcy judge in New York accused Bank of America of falsely telling courts and the public that it was working to renegotiate loans. “Bank of America issues constant press releases about how it is responsive to their borrowers on these issues. They are not, period,” said Judge Robert Drain, in a case involving homeowner Richard Tomasulo, a pharmacist from Crompond, New York. Drain said Bank of America had been telling the court since January that it was working to modify Tomasulo’s mortgage, but hadn’t done so.

“Whoever is in charge of this program and their supervisor, who should be following it, should be fired” because “they are frankly incompetent.”

Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said the bank has completed “nearly one million” modifications since 2008. The U.S. Treasury this year suspended loan modification incentive payments to the bank because it was “seriously deficient” in responding to requests for modifications.

CHEATERS AND LIARS

Foreclosure fraud came to light in September 2010, with evidence that employees of Ally Financial Corp. had committed “robo-signing,” in which low-level workers signed and swore to the facts in thousands of affidavits they hadn’t read or checked. The affidavits were notarized outside the signers’ presence, in apparent violation of state and federal criminal laws. Since then, mounting evidence of possible foreclosure fraud has convinced judges and state regulators that servicers have harmed homeowners and the investors who bought mortgage-backed securities. A unit of the Justice Department that oversees bankruptcy court cases, the U.S. Trustees Program, said in its 2010 annual report that there were “pervasive and longstanding problems regarding mortgage loan servicing,” which “are not merely ’technical’ but cause real harm to homeowners in bankruptcy.”

Banks, the Trustees Program says, have falsified affidavits by claiming homeowners owe fees for services never rendered and by overstating how much owners are behind on payments.

Former federal prosecutor Daniel Richman, a professor of criminal law at Columbia University Law School, says a central question is who prosecutors would target in criminal investigations. Richman said it would be easy but not worthwhile to charge large numbers of rank-and-file workers who, directed by supervisors, falsely churned out affidavits. He said criminal investigations would be warranted, but harder to bring, “if there are particular individuals who lie at the heart of this conduct in a very significant way.”

In October 2010, members of Congress pressed the Justice Department to investigate. Attorney General Eric Holder said investigations were best left to the states, with help from the Justice Department. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the top bank regulator, quickly negotiated settlements with the 14 largest servicers, requiring changes in practices and “remediation” for harmed homeowners. That settlement allows the banks to choose their own contractors to determine who was harmed and by how much. Lawmakers and homeowner advocates have criticized the arrangement, contending that it will let the banks avoid making all wronged homeowners whole, because the contractors are paid by and answer to the banks.

Since then, the department’s civil division has worked with a shaky coalition of all 50 states, which have been seeking a civil settlement with five banks that are the largest loan servicers. The negotiations center on requiring them to pay $20 billion or more in penalties, only some of which would go to compensate wronged homeowners.

STATES TAKE ACTION

Federal law enforcement has been noticeably absent, even in areas hardest hit by the crisis, such as Las Vegas.

In 2010 the FBI’s Las Vegas office shut down its mortgage fraud task force, which had focused on small-scale swindlers.

Tim Gallagher, chief of the FBI’s financial crimes section, said that the Las Vegas office had asked to transfer agents to other duties.

Impatient with the lack of federal prosecution, states including New York, Massachusetts, Delaware and California have launched their own investigations of the banks.

In November, it became the first state to file criminal charges. The state attorney general obtained a 606-count indictment against two California-based executives of Lender Processing Services. It accuses the executives of paying Nevada notaries to forge the pair’s signatures and falsely notarize them on notices of default, documents Nevada requires in foreclosure actions. State officials said more indictments are expected.

In an interview, John Kelleher, Nevada’s chief deputy attorney general, said the investigation began in response to citizen complaints. “We were concerned and then shocked at the sheer number of fraudulent documents we were finding that had been filed with the county recorder,” Kelleher said. Investigators found “tens of thousands” of false records filed on behalf of big mortgage servicers, he said. The two executives have pleaded not guilty. In a press release, the company said: “LPS acknowledges the signing procedures on some of these documents were flawed; however, the company also believes these documents were properly authorized and their recording did not result in a wrongful foreclosure.”

BACK HOME IN NEW YORK

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is the federal prosecutors’ office that traditionally has filed the most cases against top banks and financiers. But it hasn’t brought any foreclosure-related criminal cases involving Wall Street’s biggest financial houses or the law firms that represent them. To date the only step it has taken publicly was an October 2011 civil settlement with New York State’s largest foreclosure law firm. The Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm, based near Buffalo, New York, in recent years filed approximately 40 per cent of all foreclosures in New York State, on behalf of banks and other mortgage servicers. Court records show that the firm angered state court judges for alleged false statements and filing suspect documents.

Arthur Schack, a state court judge in Brooklyn, in a 2010 ruling said that pleadings by the Baum firm on behalf of HSBC Bank, a unit of London-based HSBC Holdings HSBA.L, in a foreclosure case were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.” Another state judge that year imposed $5,000 in sanctions and ordered the firm to pay $14,500 in attorneys’ fees, ruling that “misrepresentation of the material statements here was outrageous.”

But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan filed no criminal charges against the Baum firm. Instead, it signed a settlement with Baum ending an inquiry “relating to foreclosure practices.” The agreement made no allegations of wrongdoing, but required the firm to improve its foreclosure practices. Baum agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty, but didn’t admit wrongdoing.

The law firm said it would shut down after New York Times columnist Joe Nocera in November published photographs of a 2010 Baum firm Halloween party in which employees dressed up as homeless people. Another showed part of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed houses. “The settlement between the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Steven J. Baum Law Firm resulted in immediate and comprehensive reforms of the firm’s business practices,” said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. Earl Wells III, a spokesman for Baum, said the lawyer wouldn’t comment because “he’s laying low right now.”

An HSBC spokesman said: “We are working closely with the regulators to address any matters raised regarding” the bank’s foreclosure practices.

BROKEN PROMISES

The most serious potential foreclosure violations involve falsified mortgage promissory notes, the documents homeowners sign vowing to repay mortgage loans. Courts uniformly have ruled that unless a creditor legally owns the promissory note, it has no legal right to foreclose. For each mortgage there is only one promissory note.

Bankruptcy court records reviewed by Reuters show that at least a dozen radically different documents purporting to be the authentic promissory note have turned up in foreclosure cases involving six different properties in the federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York.

In one, Wells Fargo is battling to foreclose on the Bronx home of Tindala Mims, a single mother who works as an ambulance driver. In September 2010, Wells Fargo filed a promissory note bearing a signed stamp showing that the note belonged to defunct Washington Mutual Bank, not Wells Fargo. The judge threw out the case. In a second attempt, the court was given a different version of the note. But inspection showed physical alterations. A variety of marks on the original were missing or seemed obviously altered on the second. And the second version had a stamped endorsement, missing on the first, that appeared to give Wells Fargo the right to foreclose. The judge threw out the second attempt too. Wells Fargo is trying a third time. It declined to comment on the case.

Linda Tirelli, Mims’ lawyer, in October sued Wells Fargo, alleging “fabrication of documents.” “It seems to me that Washington is deathly afraid of the banking industry,” Tirelli said. “If you’re talking about filing false documents and filing false notarizations, do you really think that the U.S. Attorney would find it too difficult to prosecute?”

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan has routinely brought charges involving forgery and filing false documents against smaller targets. In April, the FBI arrested seven employees of the USA Beauty School in Manhattan. Bharara’s office alleged that the seven suspects had forged documents such as high school diplomas, attendance records and applications for financial aid for students taking cosmetology classes. In August, Bharara’s office filed felony charges against a sports-memorabilia company’s CEO, accusing him of auctioning jerseys falsely advertised as “game used” by Major League Baseball players. In a press conference, a U.S. Postal Inspection Service official said prosecution was important because “victims felt that they had a piece of history only to be defrauded and left with a feeling of heartbreak.”

Given the record of Bharara’s office, and those of his fellow U.S. Attorneys around the country, to aggressively pursue violations both big and small, the absence of cases involving the foreclosure fiasco seems to stand out. “Why there hasn’t been more robust prosecution is a mystery,” said Brescia, the visiting professor at Yale.

 

THINK ABOUT IT …CONNECTING THE DOTS

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Connecting the dots... As third round of “quantitative easing” gets under way. When will the media, the Courts and frankly the BORROWERS finally get it? The Federal Reserve Bank has been buying Mortgage bonds using trillions of dollars, soon to be around $3.5 trillion, as reluctantly reported by the the FED (only after intense efforts by Bloomberg).

Think about it. The total amount on promissory notes signed by homeowners that the Banks say have gone into default is less than $3 trillion. So the FED is now the proud owner of mortgage bonds that at best represent ownership of failed mortgage loans and at worst —- nothing because the loans were never transferred to anyone, let alone the FED. The probability is that the FED is buying nothing at all – because it is the Banks that are “selling” the bonds. How could the Banks be selling the bonds when they already sold them to investors?
Think about it. If the Banks receive $3.5 trillion — that covers ALL of the notes that went into default. Yet those notes were “secured” by mortgage “liens” on what is now around $1.5 trillion worth of real property. So the “loss” is really only $2 trillion. NOTE: I do NOT concede that the “liens” were perfected nor do I concede that these were even mortgage transactions — as opposed to part of the issuance of securities in which the homeowners may have been unwitting “Issuers.”
Think about it. If the loss was $2 trillion, who lost that money? If the loss comes from ownership of mortgage bonds, then the loss belongs to pension fund and other institutional investors who “bought” the “mortgage-backed” bonds — unless there is some secret pact wherein the investors had purchased an OPTION rather than the mortgage bond itself. Either way it is not a loss for the Bank and it is a loss for investors.
Think about it. If the Banks did not lose money from the decline in value of mortgage bonds and if the banks did not lose money from so-called defaults on mortgage loans, and if the payment from the FED pays off the loss with 150 cents on the dollar, then the FED now has the loss and the Banks have a profit, by keeping the money rather than distributing it to investors. And the homeowner is left none the wiser that some allocable portion of that money should have reduced the amount due to his real creditor — the investor. And the taxpayer is left none the wiser that they have just given a subsidy to Banks who don’t deserve or need it, leaving future generations to figure it out.
Think about it. If the FED is taking the loss with no right of subrogation then the debts are retired. That means there is no payment due. If no payment is due one can hardly be forced to make the payment anyway. In fact, there can be no default on a payment that is not due. And THAT is why the Banks fight tooth and nail against discovery requests from homeowners in the form of qualified written requests, debt validation, or civil discovery procedures in court. The FULL accounting would trace ALL the money and reveal objects behind the curtain.
And THAT is why you need the FULL accounting of all financial transactions in which money exchanged before accepting the notion the mortgage is or ever was in default.
  • When it suits them, the Banks tell the investors “it’s your loss.”
  • When it suits them they tell the government or Federal Reserve “it’s your loss.”
  • When it suits them they tell the homeowner “it’s your loss.”
  • When it comes to taking losses on wild bets they tell their own shareholders “it’s your loss.”
  • But when it comes to taking proceeds of bailout, quantitative easing, insurance, credit default swaps they are perfectly willing to say anything to get that money — “it’s our loss.”
Think about it. The FED is paying the one party (intermediary Banks and brokers) that had no losses who are now getting the money on the sale of assets they don’t own based on defective mortgage loans that are probably worse than worthless because of exposure to liability for predatory and deceptive lending.

Dealers See Fed Buying $545 Billion Mortgage Bonds in QE3

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — The biggest bond dealers in the U.S. say the Federal Reserve is poised to start a new round of stimulus, injecting more money into the economy by purchasing mortgage securities instead of Treasuries.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his fellow policy makers, who bought $2.3 trillion of Treasury and mortgage-related bonds between 2008 and June, will start another program next quarter, 16 of the 21 primary dealers of U.S. government securities that trade with the central bank said in a Bloomberg News survey last week. The Fed may buy about $545 billion in home-loan debt, based on the median of the firms that provided estimates.

While mortgage rates are already at about record lows, housing continues to constrain the economy, with the National Association of Realtors saying in Washington last week that the median price of U.S. existing homes dropped 4.7 percent in October from a year ago. Borrowers with a 30-year conventional mortgage would save $40 billion to $50 billion annually in aggregate if they could all refinance into a new loan with a 3.75 percent rate, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“We need to see a bottom in home prices,” said Shyam Rajan, an interest-rate strategist in New York at Bank of America Corp., a primary dealer, in a Nov. 22 telephone interview. “These are not numbers that are going to get down your unemployment rate,” which has held at or above 9 percent every month except two since May 2009, he said.

New Urgency

The company forecasts the Fed will buy $800 billion of securities, which may include Treasuries.

Efforts to bolster the economy are taking on new urgency with $1.2 trillion in automatic government spending cuts slated to begin in 2013. The Commerce Department said last week that gross domestic product expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, less than the 2.5 percent it originally projected, and Europe’s worsening debt crisis threatens to further curb global growth.

The Fed is taking the view that “even if U.S. fundamentals look to be relatively OK, we’ve got to keep our eye on any contagion from the European stresses,” Dominic Konstam, head of interest-rate strategy at the primary dealer Deutsche Bank AG in New York, said in a Nov. 22 telephone interview. “It’s in that context that they’re willing to do more.”

Treasuries rose last week on those concerns, with the 10-year yield dropping five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 1.97 percent, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices. The yield rose 10 basis points to 2.06 percent today at 9:23 a.m. in New York. The 2 percent security due in November 2021 fell 7/8, or $8.75 per $1,000 face amount, to 99 13/32.

Inflation Outlook

Policy makers have scope to print more money to buy bonds in a third round of quantitative easing, or QE, as the outlook for inflation eases.

A measure of traders’ inflation expectations that the Fed uses to help determine monetary policy ended last week at 2.25 percent, down from this year’s high 3.23 percent on Aug. 1. The so-called five-year, five-year forward break-even rate, which projects what the pace of consumer-price increases will be for the five-year period starting in 2016, is below the 2.83 percent average since August 2007, the start of the credit crisis.

“There is a significant chance that QE3 will be deployed, especially in the form of MBS purchases, if inflation expectations fall enough,” Srini Ramaswamy and other debt strategists at JPMorgan in New York wrote in a Nov. 25 report.

Relative Growth

JPMorgan is one of the five dealers that don’t forecast the Fed will begin a third round of asset purchases to stimulate the economy. The others are UBS AG, Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank.

After cutting its target interest rate for overnight loans between banks to a range of zero to 0.25 percent, the Fed bought about $1.7 trillion of government and mortgage debt during QE1 between December 2008 and March 2010, and purchased $600 billion of Treasuries between November 2010 and June through QE2.

The moves have helped. At 2.2 percent, U.S. GDP will expand more next year than any other Group of Seven nation except Japan, separate surveys of economists by Bloomberg show.

“Monetary policy is in part a confidence game,” said Chris Ahrens, head interest-rate strategist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “At this point in time we don’t see the need for it, but if the situation were to evolve in a negative fashion they’re telling us they can come out and respond in a proactive fashion.”

‘Frustratingly Slow’

Minutes from the Nov. 1-2 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee showed some policy makers aren’t convinced the recovery will strengthen, saying the central bank should consider easing policy further.

“A few members indicated that they believed the economic outlook might warrant additional policy accommodation,” the Fed said in the minutes released Nov. 22 in Washington.

Bernanke, at a press conference after the meeting, said the “pace of progress is likely to be frustratingly slow,” while on Nov. 17 Fed Bank of New York President William C. Dudley said if the central bank opted to buy more bonds, “it might make sense” for much of those to consist of mortgage-backed securities to boost the housing market.

Mortgages were at the epicenter of the financial crisis that began in 2007 and resulted in more than $2 trillion in writedowns and losses at the world’s largest financial institutions based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales of existing homes have averaged 4.97 million a month this year, little changed since 2008 and down from 6.52 million in 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median price decreased to $162,500 in October from $170,600 a year earlier and from the record $230,300 in July 2006.

Housing Glut

At the current pace of sales it would take eight months to clear the inventory of available properties, compared with the average of 4.8 before 2007.

Fed purchases of mortgage bonds would dovetail with efforts by President Barack Obama, who has been promoting an initiative by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to let qualified homeowners refinance mortgages regardless of how much their houses have lost in value. The Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, will eliminate some fees, trim others and waive some risk for lenders.

The difference between yields on Fannie Mae’s current-coupon 30-year fixed-rate securities, which influence loan rates, and 10-year Treasuries climbed to 121 basis points last week, from 84 basis points on Dec. 31, Bloomberg data show. The spread widened to 129 basis points in August, the most since March 2009.

‘Powerful Wildcard’

“The prospect of the Fed buying MBS under a QE3 program is a powerful wild card, and should limit the downside in the asset class,” the JPMorgan strategists wrote in their report last week. “Given attractive spreads currently, we recommend heading into 2012 with an overweight,” they said in reference to a strategy where investors own a greater percentage of a security or asset class than is contained in benchmark indexes.

Mortgage securities guaranteed by government-supported Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the federal agency Ginnie Mae have financed more than 90 percent of new home lending following the collapse of the non-agency market in 2007 and a retreat by banks. The agency mortgage-bond market accounts for $5.4 trillion of the $9.9 trillion in housing debt outstanding.

The Fed, which owns about $900 billion of the securities, said in September it will reinvest maturing housing debt into mortgage-backed bonds instead of Treasuries. MBS holdings represent about 40 percent of the Fed’s balance sheet, down from a peak of about 66 percent.

“If the Fed’s position in MBS grew under QE3 to half of its balance sheet, this would imply that they would have to purchase on the order of $500 billion,” the JPMorgan strategists wrote in their report. The Fed’s “decision to reinvest paydowns back into the mortgage market suggests a comfort level with owning mortgages that seems to have grown,” they wrote.

–With assistance from Jody Shenn and Susanne Walker in New York. Editors: Philip Revzin, Robert Burgess, Dennis Fitzgerald

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Kruger in New York at dkruger1@bloomberg.net; Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dave Liedtka at dliedtka@bloomberg.net

Government Accounting Office (GAO): Bailout was $16 TRILLION

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EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: Let’s do the Math.

The total of ALL Mortgages in the mortgage mess was $13 Trillion.

That includes all the mortgages that went into default AND all the mortgages that didn’t go into default (assuming we accept the word “default” as simply meaning that the borrower didn’t pay and we forget about the fact that the creditor was probably paid anyway). The Bailout was $16 Trillion, which means that the bailout was $3 Trillion more (just as I predicted by the way) MORE than the amount loaned.

So here are some simple questions:

  1. Assuming a “default” rate of 30%, that would mean that around $4 trillion of mortgage loans went unpaid, but the Banks grabbed the property.
  2. If the property was worth 50% of the loan, then the “loss” on the “defaults” was $2 trillion.
  3. WHY DID THE BAILOUT COST EIGHT (8) TIMES THE LOSS?
  4. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO REALIZE THAT SOMEBODY MADE A KILLING HERE CLAIMING A NON-EXISTENT LOSS: THE TAXPAYERS PAID $14 TRILLION MORE THAN THE ALLEGED LOSS, WHICH IS A PROFIT, RIGHT?
  5. IF THERE WAS A KILLING, WHO WAS THE VICTIM (ALL OF US?)
  6. WHERE IS THAT MONEY NOW?
  7. WHEN DO WE GET THAT MONEY BACK?
  8. IF THE BANKS RECEIVED AND KEPT $16 TRILLION OR SOME SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THAT, THEN WHY ARE ANY OF THE MORTGAGES IN DEFAULT?
  9. IF THE BANKS RECEIVED AND KEPT $16 TRILLION OR SOME SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THAT WHY DOES ANYONE WHO RECEIVED A MORTGAGE DURING THAT PERIOD OWE ANYTHING TO THE SAME BANKS?
  10. DIDN’T WE ALREADY PAY THEM IN OUR ROLE AS TAXPAYERS?
  11. WHY SHOULD WE PAY THEM AGAIN?

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