National Honesty Day? America’s Book of Lies

Today is National Honesty Day. While it should be a celebration of how honest we have been the other 364 days of the year, it is rather a day of reflection on how dishonest we have been. Perhaps today could be a day in which we say we will at least be honest today about everything we say or do. But that isn’t likely. Today I focus on the economy and the housing crisis. Yes despite the corruption of financial journalism in which we are told of improvements, our economy — led by the housing markets — is still sputtering. It will continue to do so until we confront the truth about housing, and in particular foreclosures. Tennessee, Virginia and other states continue to lead the way in a downward spiral leading to the lowest rate of home ownership since the 1990’s with no bottom in sight.

Here are a few of the many articles pointing out the reality of our situation contrasted with the absence of articles in financial journalism directed at outright corruption on Wall Street where the players continue to pursue illicit, fraudulent and harmful schemes against our society performing acts that can and do get jail time for anyone else who plays that game.

It isn’t just that they escaping jail time. The jailing of bankers would take a couple of thousand people off the street that would otherwise be doing harm to us.

The main point is that we know they are doing the wrong thing in foreclosing on property they don’t own using “balances” the borrower doesn’t owe; we know they effectively stole the money from the investors who thought they were buying mortgage bonds, we know they effectively stole the title protection and documents that should have been executed in favor of the real source of funds, we know they received multiple payments from third parties and we know they are getting twin benefits from foreclosures that (a) should not be legally allowed and (b) only compound the damages to investors and homeowners.

The bottom line: Until we address wrongful foreclosures, the housing market, which has always led the economy, will continue to sputter, flatline or crash again. Transferring wealth from the middle class to the banks is a recipe for disaster whether it is legal or illegal. In this case it plainly illegal in most cases.

And despite the planted articles paid for by the banks, we still have over 700,000 foreclosures to go in the next year and over 9,000,000 homeowners who are so deep underwater that their situation is a clear and present danger of “strategic default” on claims that are both untrue and unfair.

Here is a sampling of corroborative evidence for my conclusions:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Candid Take on the Foreclosure Crisis

There it was: The Treasury foreclosure program was intended to foam the runway to protect against a crash landing by the banks. Millions of people were getting tossed out on the street, but the secretary of the Treasury believed the government’s most important job was to provide a soft landing for the tender fannies of the banks.”

Lynn Symoniak is Thwarted by Government as She Pursues Other Banks for the Same Thing She Proved Before

Government prosecutors who relied on a Florida whistleblower’s evidence to win foreclosure fraud settlements with major banks two years ago are declining to help her pursue identical claims against a second set of large financial institutions.

Lynn Szymoniak first found proof that millions of American foreclosures were based on faulty and falsified documents while fighting her own foreclosure. Her three-year legal fight helped uncover the fact that banks were “robosigning” documents — hiring people to forge signatures and backdate legal paperwork the firms needed in order to foreclose on people’s homes — as a routine practice. Court papers that were unsealed last summer show that the fraudulent practices Szymoniak discovered affect trillions of dollars worth of mortgages.

More than 700,000 Foreclosures Expected Over Next Year

How Bank Watchdogs Killed Our Last Chance At Justice For Foreclosure Victims

The results are in. The award for the sorriest chapter of the great American foreclosure crisis goes to the Independent Foreclosure Review, a billion-dollar sinkhole that produced nothing but heartache for aggrieved homeowners, and a big black eye for regulators.

The foreclosure review was supposed to uncover abuses in how the mortgage industry coped with the epic wave of foreclosures that swept the U.S. in the aftermath of the housing crash. In a deal with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, more than a dozen companies, including major banks, agreed to hire independent auditors to comb through loan files, identify errors and award just compensation to people who’d been abused in the foreclosure process.

But in January 2013, amid mounting evidence that the entire process was compromised by bank interference and government mismanagement, regulators abruptly shut the program down. They replaced it with a nearly $10 billion legal settlement that satisfied almost no one. Borrowers received paltry payouts, with sums determined by the very banks they accused of making their lives hell.

Investigation Stalled and Diverted as to Bank Fraud Against Investors and Homeowners

The Government Accountability Office released the results of its study of the Independent Foreclosure Review, conducted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve in 2011 and 2012, and the results show that the foreclosure process is lacking in oversight and transparency.

According to the GAO review, which can be read in full here, the OCC and Fed signed consent orders with 16 mortgage servicers in 2011 and 2012 that required the servicers to hire consultants to review foreclosure files for efforts and remediate harm to borrowers.

In 2013, regulators amended the consent orders for all but one servicer, ending the file reviews and requiring servicers to provide $3.9 billion in cash payments to about 4.4 million borrowers and $6 billion in foreclosure prevention actions, such as loan modifications. The list of impacted mortgage servicers can be found here, as well as any updates. It should be noted that the entire process faced controversy before, as critics called the IFR cumbersome and costly.

Banks Profit from Suicides of Their Officers and Employees

After a recent rash of mysterious apparent suicides shook the financial world, researchers are scrambling to find answers about what really is the reason behind these multiple deaths. Some observers have now come to a rather shocking conclusion.

Wall Street on Parade bloggers Pam and Russ Martens wrote this week that something seems awry regarding the bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) policies held by JPMorgan Chase.

Four of the biggest banks on Wall Street combined hold over $680 billion in BOLI policies, the bloggers reported, but JPMorgan held around $17.9 billion in BOLI assets at the end of last year to Citigroup’s comparably meager $8.8 billion.

Government Cover-Up to Protect the Banks and Screw Homeowners and Investors

A new government report suggests that errors made by banks and their agents during foreclosures might have been significantly higher than was previously believed when regulators halted a national review of the banks’ mortgage servicing operations.

When banking regulators decided to end the independent foreclosure review last year, most banks had not completed the examinations of their mortgage modification and foreclosure practices.

At the time, the regulators — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve — found that lengthy reviews by bank-hired consultants were delaying compensation getting to borrowers who had suffered through improper modifications and other problems.

But the decision to cut short the review left regulators with limited information about actual harm to borrowers when they negotiated a $10 billion settlement as part of agreements with 15 banks, according to a draft of a report by the Government Accountability Office reviewed by The New York Times.

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

Wrongful Foreclosure Rate at least 24%: Wrongful or Fraudulent?

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

http://www.marketpulse.com/20140430/u-s-housing-recovery-struggles/

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0429/Home-buying-loses-allure-ownership-rate-lowest-since-1995

http://www.opednews.com/articles/It-s-Good–no–Great-to-by-William-K-Black–Bank-Failure_Bank-Failures_Bankers_Banking-140430-322.html

[DISHONEST EUPHEMISMS: The context of this WSJ story is the broader series of betrayals of homeowners by the regulators and prosecutors led initially by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his infamous “foam the runways” comment in which he admitted and urged that programs “sold” as benefitting distressed homeowners be used instead to aid the banks (more precisely, the bank CEOs) whose frauds caused the crisis.  The WSJ article deals with one of the several settlements with the banks that “service” home mortgages and foreclose on them.  Private attorneys first obtained the evidence that the servicers were engaged in massive foreclosure fraud involving knowingly filing hundreds of thousands of false affidavits under (non) penalty of perjury.  As a senior former AUSA said publicly at the INET conference a few weeks ago about these cases — they were slam dunk prosecutions.  But you know what happened; no senior banker or bank was prosecuted.  No banker was sued civilly by the government.  No banker had to pay back his bonus that he “earned” through fraud.

 

 

Fatal Flaws in the Origination of Loans and Assignments

The secured party, the identified creditor, the payee on the note, the mortgagee on the mortgage, the beneficiary under the deed of trust should have been the investor(s) — not the originator, not the aggregator, not the servicer, not any REMIC Trust, not any Trustee of a REMIC Trust, and not any Trustee substituted by a false beneficiary on a deed of Trust, not the master servicer and not even the broker dealer. And certainly not whoever is pretending to be a legal party in interest who, without injury to themselves or anyone they represent, could or should force the forfeiture of property in which they have no interest — all to the detriment of the investor-lenders and the borrowers.
There are two fatal flaws in the origination of the loan and in the origination of the assignment of the loan.

As I see it …

The REAL Transaction is between the investors, as an unnamed group, and the borrower(s). This is taken from the single transaction rule and step transaction doctrine that is used extensively in Tax Law. Since the REMIC trust is a tax creature, it seems all the more appropriate to use existing federal tax law decisions to decide the substance of these transactions.

If the money from the investors was actually channeled through the REMIC trust, through a bank account over which the Trustee for the REMIC trust had control, and if the Trustee had issued payment for the loan, and if that happened within the cutoff period, then if the loan was assigned during the cutoff period, and if the delivery of the documents called for in the PSA occurred within the cutoff period, then the transaction would be real and the paperwork would be real EXCEPT THAT

Where the originator of the loan was neither legally the lender nor legally a representative of the source of funds for the transaction, then by simple rules of contract, the originator was incapable of executing any transfer documents for the note or mortgage (deed of trust in nonjudicial states).

If the originator of the loan was not the lender, not the creditor, not a party who could legally execute a satisfaction of the mortgage and a cancellation of the note then who was?

Our answer is nobody, which I know is “counter-intuitive” — a euphemism for crazy conspiracy theorist. But here is why I know that the REMIC trust was never involved in the transaction and that the originator was never the source of funds except in those cases where securitization was never involved (less than 2% of all loans made, whether still existing or “satisfied” or “foreclosed”).

The broker dealer never intended for the REMIC trust to actually own the mortgage loans and caused the REMIC trust to issue mortgage bonds containing an indenture for repayment and ownership of the underlying loans. But there were never any underlying loans (except for some trusts created in the 1990’s). The prospectus said plainly that the excel spreadsheet attached to the prospectus contained loan information that would be replaced by the real loans once they were acquired. This is a practice on Wall Street called selling forward. In all other marketplaces, it is called fraud. But like short-selling, it is permissible on Wall Street.

The broker dealer never intended the investors to actually own the bonds either. Those were issued in street name nominee, non objecting status/ The broker dealer could report to the investor that the investor was the actual or equitable owner of the bonds in an end of month statement when in fact the promises in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement as to insurance, credit default swaps, overcollateralization (a violation of the terms of the promissory note executed by residential borrowers), cross collateralization (also a violation of the borrower’s note), guarantees, servicer advances and trust or trustee advances would all be payable, at the discretion of the broker dealer, to the broker dealer and perhaps never reported or paid to the “trust beneficiaries” who were in fact merely defrauded investors. The only reason the servicer advances were paid to the investors was to lull them into a false sense of security and to encourage them to buy still more of these empty (less than junk) bonds.

By re-creating the notes signed by residential borrowers as various different instruments, and there being no limit on the number of times it could be insured or subject to receiving the proceeds of credit default swaps, (and with the broker dealer being the Master Servicer with SOLE discretion as to whether to declare a credit event that was binding on the insurer, counter-party etc), the broker dealers were able to sell the loans multiple times and sell the bonds multiple times. The leverage at Bear Stearns stacked up to 42 times the actual transaction — for which the return was infinite because the Bear used investor money to do the deal.

Hence we know from direct evidence in the public domain that this was the plan for the “claim” of securitization — which is to say that there never was any securitization of any of the loans. The REMIC Trust was ignored, thus the PSA, servicer rights, etc. were all nonbinding, making all of them volunteers earning considerable money, undisclosed to the investors who would have been furious to see how their money was being used and the borrowers who didn’t see the train wreck coming even from 24 inches from the closing documents.

Before the first loan application was received (and obviously before the first “closing” occurred) the money had been taken from investors for the expressed purpose of funding loans through the REMIC Trust. The originator in all cases was subject to an assignment and assumption agreement which made the loan the property and liability of the counter-party to the A&A BEFORE the money was given to the borrower or paid out on behalf of the borrower. Without the investor, there would have been no loan. without the borrower, there would have been no investment (but there would still be an investor left holding the bag having advanced money for mortgage bonds issued by a REMIC trust that had no assets, and no income to pay the bonds off).

The closing agent never “noticed” that the funds did not come from the actual originator. Since the amount was right, the money went into the closing agent’s escrow account and was then applied by the escrow agent to fund the loan to the borrower. But the rules were that the originator was not allowed to touch or handle or process the money or any overpayment.

Wire transfer instructions specified that any overage was to be returned to the sender who was neither the originator nor any party in privity with the originator. This was intended to prevent moral hazard (theft, of the same type the banks themselves were committing) and to create a layer of bankruptcy remote, liability remote originators whose sins could only be visited upon the aggregators, and CDO conduits constructed by CDO managers in the broker dealers IF the proponent of a claim could pierce a dozen fire walls of corporate veils.

NOW to answer your question, if the REMIC trust was ignored, and was a sham used to steal money from pension funds, but the money of the pension fund landed on the “closing table,” then who should have been named on the note and mortgage (deed of trust beneficiary in non-judicial states)? Obviously the investor(s) should have been protected with a note and mortgage made out in their name or in the name of their entity. It wasn’t.

And the originator was intentionally isolated from privity with the source of funds. That means to me, and I assume you agree, that the investor(s) should have been on the note as payee, the investor(s) should have been on the mortgage as mortgagees (or beneficiaries under the deed of trust) but INSTEAD a stranger to the transaction with no money in the deal allowed their name to be rented as though they were the actual lender.

In turn it was this third party stranger nominee straw-man who supposedly executed assignments, endorsements, and other instruments of power or transfer (sometimes long after they went out of business) on a note and mortgage over which they had no right to control and in which they had no interest and for which they could suffer no loss.

Thus the paperwork that should have been used was never created, executed or delivered. The paperwork that that was created referred to a transaction between the named parties that never occurred. No state allows equitable mortgages, nor should they. But even if that theory was somehow employed here, it would be in favor of the individual investors who actually suffered the loss rather than the foreclosing entity who bears no risk of loss on the loan given to the borrower at closing. They might have other claims against numerous parties including the borrower, but those claims are unliquidated and unsecured.

The secured party, the identified creditor, the payee on the note, the mortgagee on the mortgage, the beneficiary under the deed of trust should have been the investor(s) — not the originator, not the aggregator, not the servicer, not any REMIC Trust, not any Trustee of a REMIC Trust, and not any Trustee substituted by a false beneficiary on a deed of Trust, not the master servicer and not even the broker dealer. And certainly not whoever is pretending to be a legal party in interest who, without injury to themselves or anyone they represent, could or should force the forfeiture of property in which they have no interest — all to the detriment of the investor-lenders and the borrowers.

Why any court would allow the conduits and bookkeepers to take over the show to the obvious detriment and damage to the real parties in interest is a question that only legal historians will be able to answer.

Inflated Appraisals as Assumption of Risk and Joint Venture with the Pretender Lender

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Editor’s Comment:  

The allegation of an intentionally inflated appraisal of the property supports many claims, defenses, affirmative defenses and positions. A property that is appraised at $300,000 was usually coming in at precisely $20,000 more than the target value used for the contract for purchase or the commitment for funding a refi. The appraiser was selected, directly or indirectly by the so-called lender whom I have dubbed the “pretender lender,” so named because the borrower is deceived into thinking that he/she is entering into a financial transaction with one party — the one named on the promissory note as payee or named as the mortgagee, beneficiary or lender on the mortgage or deed of trust. In fact, however, the financial transaction took place between the  borrower and an undisclosed party while the paperwork revealed no such dichotomy in violation of federal and state lending laws).

But in addition to the documents smelling like 3 day-old fish based upon the failure of the documents to describe an actual financial transaction between the pretender lender and the borrower, the terms of the loan are different than the ones stated in the note and mortgage.

The pretender lender is merely an originator whose name is “rented” for the purpose of creating a bankruptcy remote vehicle (so-named by the banking industry) that could commit every violation of lending laws under the sun. When the homeowner seeks redress he/she finds himself confronting a non-existent entity that was never legally formed, and/or a bankrupt entity, or a dissolved entity that in any event never supplied the credit or cash for the transaction recited in the mortgage documents.

The inflated appraisal is performed by appraisers with the full knowledge that they are doing the equivalent of appraising a car’s value as being 40% above the retail sticker on the showroom  floor.  Industry standard appraisals withstand the test of time. A reasonable period of time for an appraisal to stand on its own legs is expressed in years not months. In most cases the homeowner  quickly found out in days, weeks or at most months, that the fair market value of the property was at least vastly over-stated in order to make the loan as large as possible, and, as we have seen, the inflation of the appraisal ranged from 30% to 75% in those areas that were targeted by Wall Street — with the worst offenses occurring in areas of low financial sophistication or people with language issues because they had recently moved to the U.S.

The appraiser is selected by the lender and, as stated by the 8,000 appraisers who signed petitions in protest in 2005, threatened with no employment if they didn’t come back with an appraisal at least $20,000 over the target contract price (the contract being given to them, which is a violation in itself of industry standards. Many appraisers refused and went to work only for small banks who were making loans with their own money and credit. The pretender lenders were not worried about risk of loss because the originator whose name was loaned to the Wall Street bank for a price above rubies, was not using its own money and credit. In fact, the originator usually had not money or credit, with some notable exceptions where a major institution originated the loan, but was not bankruptcy remote (thinly capitalized). None the less they were not the source of funds, not using their own money or credit and thus assumed no risk of loss for the “decline” in the value of the property after closing —a decline precipitated by the free market providing a value range that is in line with median income.

This article is meant to provoke discussion amongst both bankruptcy lawyers and civil litigators as to whether a known inflated value places part of the risk of loss on all loans, not just those that went into default. By inserting a false value into the equation, the borrower reasonably relied upon the appraiser as supposedly confirmed by the “lender” under OCC regulations. That risk can be quantified — i.e., an appraisal at $300,000 for property worth only $200,000 created an immediate risk of loss not assumed by the borrower but rather assumed by the lender named in the documents.

Thus when the loss is realized in the conventional sense, it should  be “realized” in the accounting sense and applied against the lender, thus reducing the allowable claim to the value of the property. This isn’t lien-stripping. This is contract law and assumption of risk. The borrower did not come up with the appriser or the appraisal. It was the lender and under industry standards the appraisal was presumed to be confirmed through due diligence by the lender. In the old days, the bank officers would go out and visit the property a few times and check on the work done by the apprisers. Some form of that due diligence is required under current regulations (see OCC regulations) and industry standards.

The latest time that the loss attributable to the inflated appraisal should be applied is at the time the loan is subject to foreclosure. At that time, I would argue, the amount demanded in wrong and therefore an illegal impediment to reinstatement, redemption, settlement or modification. Since the borrower was the victim of the new standards for underwriting mortgages without any announcements of new standards, the borrower can hardly be held responsible for the inflated appraisal regardless of what they did with the money from the loan and regardless of the source of funding (the real party who transacted business with the borrower where money exchanged hands).

The terms of repayment are changed by the inflated appraisal. Since the inflation of the value of the property was not only known but caused by the pretender lender, the transaction converts from a standard mortgage deal to a joint venture in which if the property value continues to go up, the lender gets its money but if the property value goes down, the lender has assumed the risk of loss to the extent that the value of the property declined — or at least that portion of the decline attributable to the inflated appraisal.

This supports fraud accusations, slander of title and a variety of other causes of action. But just a importantly it makes the pretender lender a partner of the borrower and raises an issue of fact that must be resolved by the court before allowing any foreclosure to proceed or before any attempt can be made to modify the mortgage under HAMP or redeem the property under state law. The successor lenders in the securitization chain are alleging in one form or another that the amount due is strictly computed from the amount stated on the note. But in fact, the co-obligor in the securitization chain is the pretender lender who assumed part of the risk of the loss. Any notice default or attempt to foreclose in which an inflated appraisal was part of the original transaction, regardless of the identity of the real lender, is plainly  wrong or even a misrepresentation to the borrower and the court. hence the notice provisions in all states, judicial or non-judicial, are violated in virtually all foreclosures.

But wait there is more. Foreclosures already completed can be more easily overturned by these allegations with the assistance of an honest appraiser. And for those foreclosures, whether overturned or not, the borrower can seek contribution from the co-obligor(s) pretender lender or those who used the originator as a vehicle to shield them against predatory lending claims. In our example above, this would mean that the homeowner might have a clear cause of action against the  pretender lender and its successors for the $100,000 loss in value. It would also pull the rug out from “credit bids” based upon documentation allegedly from the originating lender. If the credit bid lieu of cash was higher than the amount due, this created a barrier for others to bid cash on the property making the loan paid in full and the excess proceeds payable to the borrower.

By denying that the pretender lender used an honest appraisal and  denying that the borrower is the only obligor, and denying the debt to at least to the extent of the inflation of the appraisal the borrower puts in issue a material fact in dispute and the amount of the bifurcation of risk of loss between the borrower and the amount to be attributed to the originating lender opens the hallowed doors of discovery. affirmatively alleging that the appraisal was inflated puts the burden on the borrower, so it should be avoided if possible.


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Foreclosure Strategists: Phx. Meet tonight: Make the record in your case

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Editor’s Comment:

Contact: Darrell Blomberg  Darrell@ForeclosureStrategists.com  602-686-7355

Meeting: Tuesday, May 15th, 2012, 7pm to 9pm

Make the Record

It appears the most rulings against homeowners are predicated on some arcane and minute failure of the homeowner to make the record.  We’ll be discussing how to make sure you cover all of those points by Making the Record as your case moves along.  We’ll also look at how the process of Making the Record starts long before you even think of going to court

We meet every week!

Every Tuesday: 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Come early for dinner and socialization. (Food service is also available during meeting.)
Macayo’s Restaurant, 602-264-6141, 4001 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012. (east side of Central Ave just south of Indian School Rd.)
COST: $10… and whatever you want to spend on yourself for dinner, helpings are generous so bring an appetite.
Please Bring a Guest!
(NOTE: There is a $2.49 charge for the Happy Hour Buffet unless you at least order a soft drink.)

FACEBOOK PAGE FOR “FORECLOSURE STRATEGIST”

I have set up a Facebook page. (I can’t believe it but it is necessary.) The page can be viewed at www.Facebook.com, look for and “friend” “Foreclosure Strategist.”

I’ll do my best to keep it updated with all of our events.

Please get the word out and send your friends and other homeowners the link.

MEETUP PAGE FOR FORECLOSURE STRATEGISTS:

I have set up a MeetUp page. The page can be viewed at www.MeetUp.com/ForeclosureStrategists. Please get the word out and send your friends and other homeowners the link.

May your opportunities be bountiful and your possibilities unlimited.

“Emissary of Observation”

Darrell Blomberg

602-686-7355

Darrell@ForeclosureStrategists.com

Everything Built on Myth Eventually Fails

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Editor’s Comment:

The good news is that the myth of Jamie Dimon’s infallaibility is at least called into question. Perhaps better news is that, as pointed out by Simon Johnson’s article below, the mega banks are not only Too Big to Fail, they are Too Big to Manage, which leads to the question, of why it has taken this long for Congress and the Obama administration to conclude that these Banks are Too Big to Regulate. So the answer, now introduced by Senator Brown, is to make the banks smaller and  put caps on them as to what they can and cannot do with their risk management.

But the real question that will come to fore is whether lawmakers in Dimon’s pocket will start feeling a bit squeamish about doing whatever Dimon asks. He is now becoming a political and financial liability. The $2.3 billion loss (and still counting) that has been reported seems to be traced to the improper trading in credit default swaps, an old enemy of ours from the mortgage battle that continues to rage throughout the land.  The problem is that the JPM people came to believe in their own myth which is sometimes referred to as sucking on your own exhaust. They obviously felt that their “risk management” was impregnable because in the end Jamie would save the day.

This time, Jamie can’t turn to investors to dump the loss on, thus drying up liquidity all over the world. This time he can’t go to government for a bailout, and this time the traction to bring the mega banks under control is getting larger. The last vote received only 33 votes from the Senate floor, indicating that Dimon and the wall Street lobby had control of 2/3 of the senate. So let ius bask in the possibility that this is the the beginning of the end for the mega banks, whose balance sheets, business practices and public announcements have all been based upon lies and half truths.

This time the regulators are being forced by public opinion to actually peak under the hood and see what is going on there. And what they will find is that the assets booked on the balance sheet of Dimon’s monolith are largely fictitious. This time the regulators must look at what assets were presented to the Federal Reserve window in exchange for interest free loans. The narrative is shifting from the “free house” myth to the reality of free money. And that will lead to the question of who is the creditor in each of the transactions in which a mortgage loan is said to exist.

Those mortgage loans are thought to exist because of a number of incorrect presumptions. One of them is that the obligation remains unpaid and is secured. Neither is true. Some loans might still have a balance due but even they have had their balances reduced by the receipt of insurance proceeds and the payoff from credit default swaps and other credit enhancements, not to speak of the taxpayer bailout.

This money was diverted from investor lenders who were entitled to that money because their contracts and the representations inducing them to purchase bogus mortgage bonds, stated that the investment was investment grade (Triple A) and because they thought they were insured several times over. It is true that the insurance was several layers thick and it is equally true that the insurance payoff covered most if not all the balances of all the mortgages that were funded between 1996 and the present. The investor lenders should have received at least enough of that money to make them whole — i.e., all principal and interest as promissed.

Instead the Banks did the unthinkable and that is what is about to come to light. They kept the money for themselves and then claimed the loss of investors on the toxic loans and tranches that were created in pools of money and mortgages — pools that in fact never came into existence, leaving the investors with a loose partnership with other investors, no manager, and no accounting. Every creditor is entitled to payment in full — ONCE, not multiple times unless they have separate contracts (bets) with parties other than the borrower. In this case, with the money received by the investment banks diverted from the investors, the creditors thought they had a loss when in fact they had a claim against deep pocket mega banks to receive their share of the proceeds of insurance, CDS payoffs and taxpayer bailouts.

What the banks were banking on was the stupidity of government regulators and the stupidity of the American public. But it wasn’t stupidity. it was ignorance of the intentional flipping of mortgage lending onto its head, resulting in loan portfolios whose main characteristic was that they would fail. And fail they did because the investment banks “declared” through the Master servicer that they had failed regardless of whether people were making payments on their mortgage loans or not. But the only parties with an actual receivable wherein they were expecting to be paid in real money were the investor lenders.

Had the investor lenders received the money that was taken by their agents, they would have been required to reduce the balances due from borrowers. Any other position would negate their claim to status as a REMIC. But the banks and servicers take the position that there exists an entitlement to get paid in full on the loan AND to take the house because the payment didn’t come from the borrower.

This reduction in the balance owed from borrowers would in and of itself have resulted in the equivalent of “principal reduction” which in many cases was to zero and quite possibly resulting in a claim against the participants in the securitization chain for all of the ill-gotten gains. remember that the Truth In Lending Law states unequivocally that the undisclosed profits and compensation of ANYONE involved in the origination of the loan must be paid, with interest to the borrower. Crazy you say? Is it any crazier than the banks getting $15 million for a $300,000 loan. Somebody needs to win here and I see no reason why it should be the megabanks who created, incited, encouraged and covered up outright fraud on investor lenders and homeowner borrowers.

Making Banks Small Enough And Simple Enough To Fail

By Simon Johnson

Almost exactly two years ago, at the height of the Senate debate on financial reform, a serious attempt was made to impose a binding size constraint on our largest banks. That effort – sometimes referred to as the Brown-Kaufman amendment – received the support of 33 senators and failed on the floor of the Senate. (Here is some of my Economix coverage from the time.)

On Wednesday, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Efficient Banking Act, or SAFE, which would force the largest four banks in the country to shrink. (Details of this proposal, similar in name to the original Brown-Kaufman plan, are in this briefing memo for a Senate banking subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, available through Politico; see also these press release materials).

His proposal, while not likely to immediately become law, is garnering support from across the political spectrum – and more support than essentially the same ideas received two years ago.  This week’s debacle at JP Morgan only strengthens the case for this kind of legislative action in the near future.

The proposition is simple: Too-big-to-fail banks should be made smaller, and preferably small enough to fail without causing global panic. This idea had been gathering momentum since the fall of 2008 and, while the Brown-Kaufman amendment originated on the Democratic side, support was beginning to appear across the aisle. But big banks and the Treasury Department both opposed it, parliamentary maneuvers ensured there was little real debate. (For a compelling account of how the financial lobby works, both in general and in this instance, look for an upcoming book by Jeff Connaughton, former chief of staff to former Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware.)

The issue has not gone away. And while the financial sector has pushed back with some success against various components of the Dodd-Frank reform legislation, the idea of breaking up very large banks has gained momentum.

In particular, informed sentiment has shifted against continuing to allow very large banks to operate in their current highly leveraged form, with a great deal of debt and very little equity.  There is increasing recognition of the massive and unfair costs that these structures impose on the rest of the economy.  The implicit subsidies provided to “too big to fail” companies allow them to boost compensation over the cycle by hundreds of millions of dollars.  But the costs imposed on the rest of us are in the trillions of dollars.  This is a monstrously unfair and inefficient system – and sensible public figures are increasingly pointing this out (including Jamie Dimon, however inadvertently).

American Banker, a leading trade publication, recently posted a slide show, “Who Wants to Break Up the Big Banks?” Its gallery included people from across the political spectrum, with a great deal of financial sector and public policy experience, along with quotations that appear to support either Senator Brown’s approach or a similar shift in philosophy with regard to big banks in the United States. (The slide show is available only to subscribers.)

According to American Banker, we now have in the “break up the banks” corner (in order of appearance in that feature): Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Sheila Bair, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Tom Hoenig, a board member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Utah; Senator Brown; Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. (I am also on the American Banker list).

Anat Admati of Stanford and her colleagues have led the push for much higher capital requirements – emphasizing the particular dangers around allowing our largest banks to operate in their current highly leveraged fashion. This position has also been gaining support in the policy and media mainstream, most recently in the form of a powerful Bloomberg View editorial.

(You can follow her work and related discussion on this Web site; on twitter she is @anatadmati.)

Senator Brown’s legislation reflects also the idea that banks should fund themselves more with equity and less with debt. Professor Admati and I submitted a letter of support, together with 11 colleagues whose expertise spans almost all dimensions of how the financial sector really operates.

We particularly stress the appeal of having a binding “leverage ratio” for the largest banks. This would require them to have at least 10 percent equity relative to their total assets, using a simple measure of assets not adjusted for any of the complicated “risk weights” that banks can game.

We also agree with the SAFE Banking Act that to limit the risk and potential cost to taxpayers, caps on the size of an individual bank’s liabilities relative to the economy can also serve a useful role (and the same kind of rule should apply to non-bank financial institutions).

Under the proposed law, no bank-holding company could have more than $1.3 trillion in total liabilities (i.e., that would be the maximum size). This would affect our largest banks, which are $2 trillion or more in total size, but in no way undermine their global competitiveness. This is a moderate and entirely reasonable proposal.

No one is suggesting that making JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo smaller would be sufficient to ensure financial stability.

But this idea continues to gain traction, as a measure complementary to further strengthening and simplifying capital requirements and generally in support of other efforts to make it easier to handle the failure of financial institutions.

Watch for the SAFE Banking Act to gain further support over time.

Objections and Preserving Your Rights on Appeal: From, Whose Lien Is It Anyway? by Neil F Garfield

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Editor’s Comment:

Foreclosure cases are won or lost on procedure more than on the merits of the case offered by either side. Lawyer and especially pro se litigants tend to use the right of appeal, as though it was a vehicle for entertaining evidence, objections or motions that should have been made. These make up a large percentage of the 85% of cases that are affirmed on appeal.[1]

The appellate court rarely has even the power to consider affidavits or other evidence that was not proffered and which does not show up on the record on appeal sent by the clerk of the court on the “trial” level. The appellate court is limited to what DID happen and not what SHOULD have happened. If the matter was properly raised in the lower court, then the matter may be considered by the appellate court. If not, then they must simply state that the grounds for appeal were not properly preserved for appeal and affirm the decision of the lower court Judge.

In foreclosure cases, most of the objections that should be made are known in advance and quite probably should be brought or offered as a motion in limine before the actual hearing, so that the complete focus of the court is on the issue that  would be presented by opposing counsel  and the objections raised by the borrower homeowner. In those cases, where the objections are known in advance, you should not only state that you have an objection, but the state the reasons for your objection and include a memorandum of law on the point, complete with copies of the most relevant cases.

Most of the errors that I see on the trial court level amounts to denial of due process in that the Court refuses to hear the merits or to allow the parties to conduct discovery. If that is the case in your case, you should mention it even though it is “fundamental error” that the appellate court could hear even without raising the objection contemporaneously with the subject of your objection.

This assures (along with the transcription from a court reporter) that everything about that objection was stated, presented and denied, if such is the case. It might also alert the Judge that you are ready to make such an appeal. If the objection is procedural relating to whether a proper foundation has been laid for the introduction of evidence, or whether the Court is accepting the proffer of counsel without any evidence in the record to support it, then you must make that point clearly and with support from citations in your own state. If the court refuses to hear the objections in limine then you still have the matters raised as part of the court record but you must raise the objection in the hearing or you might well have waived them unless your main point (ill advised) is that the court abused its discretion in denying the motion in limine without hearing it on the merits.

In every case I have seen reversed on appeal, there was something in the record that contradicted or nothing in the record that supported the position taken on appeal.

There are no magic words or bullets on objections. What is necessary is that you state it, without rambling on tangent subjects, with sufficient specificity so that the appellate court will understand in a flash what your objection related to, and what grounds and what law upon which you were relying. Do not combine objections. If you have more than one then state that you have 2 or more objections and proceed with the first.

The mistake I see in appeals and trial proceedings is that the attorney for the homeowner borrower remains silent while opposing counsel states facts that are not in the record (because there has not been an adversary proceeding and that you deny those facts, as they are in issue between the two sides). In many cases the Judge takes silence as a concession that the facts are true as stated and that your defense relates to something other than contesting the facts being proffered by opposing counsel.

The appellate court might agree, particularly if you are not clear in immediately identifying the fact that there was a real transaction in which money exchanged hands and then another event which involved the signing of papers but in which there was no actual transaction. The fact that the borrower believed the papers to be true while everyone else knew they were not, cannot now be used to further the fraud upon your client.

____________________

[1] It has been pointed out by some bankruptcy court judges that out of the three possibilities for appeal of a bankruptcy court ruling, petitioners and their counsel usually bypass the appeal laterally to the sitting District Court Judge charged with hearing civil cases with Federal jurisdiction and with hearing appeals from decisions made in the bankruptcy court. Sources tell us that the percentage of reversals and remand is possibly as high as 50% when brought to the District Judge rather than the BAP or Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rain in Spain May Start Falling Here

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Editor’s Comment:

It is typical politics. You know the problem and the cause but you do nothing about the cause. You don’t fix it because you view your job in government as justifying the perks you get from private companies rather than reason the government even exists — to provide for the protection and welfare of the citizens of that society. It seems that the government of each country has become an entity itself with an allegiance but to itself leaving the people with no government at all.

And the average man in the streets of Boston or Barcelona cannot be fooled or confused any longer. Hollande in France was elected precisely because the people wanted a change that would align the government with the people, by the people and for the people. The point is not whether the people are right or wrong. The point is that we would rather make our own mistakes than let politicians make them for us in order to line their own pockets with gold.

Understating foreclosures and evictions, over stating recovery of the housing Market, lying about economic prospects is simply not covering it any more. The fact is that housing prices have dropped to all time lows and are continuing to drop. The fact is that we would rather kick people out of their homes on fraudulent pretenses and pay for homeless sheltering than keep people in their homes. We have a government that is more concerned with the profits of banks than the feeding and housing of its population. 

When will it end? Maybe never. But if it changes it will be the result of an outraged populace and like so many times before in history, the new aristocracy will have learned nothing from history. The cycle repeats.

Spain Underplaying Bank Losses Faces Ireland Fate

By Yalman Onaran

Spain is underestimating potential losses by its banks, ignoring the cost of souring residential mortgages, as it seeks to avoid an international rescue like the one Ireland needed to shore up its financial system.

The government has asked lenders to increase provisions for bad debt by 54 billion euros ($70 billion) to 166 billion euros. That’s enough to cover losses of about 50 percent on loans to property developers and construction firms, according to the Bank of Spain. There wouldn’t be anything left for defaults on more than 1.4 trillion euros of home loans and corporate debt. Taking those into account, banks would need to increase provisions by as much as five times what the government says, or 270 billion euros, according to estimates by the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based research group. Plugging that hole would increase Spain’s public debt by almost 50 percent or force it to seek a bailout, following in the footsteps of Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

“How can you only talk about one type of real estate lending when more and more loans are going bad everywhere in the economy?” said Patrick Lee, a London-based analyst covering Spanish banks for Royal Bank of Canada. “Ireland managed to turn its situation around after recognizing losses much more aggressively and thus needed a bailout. I don’t see how Spain can do it without outside support.”

Double-Dip Recession

Spain, which yesterday took over Bankia SA, the nation’s third-largest lender, is mired in a double-dip recession that has driven unemployment above 24 percent and government borrowing costs to the highest level since the country adopted the euro. Investors are concerned that the Mediterranean nation, Europe’s fifth-largest economy with a banking system six times bigger than Ireland’s, may be too big to save.

In both countries, loans to real estate developers proved most toxic. Ireland funded a so-called bad bank to take much of that debt off lenders’ books, forcing writedowns of 58 percent. The government also required banks to raise capital to cover what was left behind, assuming expected losses of 7 percent for residential mortgages, 15 percent on the debt of small companies and 4 percent on that of larger corporations.

Spain’s banks face bigger risks than the government has acknowledged, even with lower default rates than Ireland experienced. If losses reach 5 percent of mortgages held by Spanish lenders, 8 percent of loans to small companies, 1.5 percent of those to larger firms and half the debt to developers, the cost will be about 250 billion euros. That’s three times the 86 billion euros Irish domestic banks bailed out by their government have lost as real estate prices tumbled.

Bankia Loans

Moody’s Investors Service, a credit-ratings firm, said it expects Spanish bank losses of as much as 306 billion euros. The Centre for European Policy Studies said the figure could be as high as 380 billion euros.

At the Bankia group, the lender formed in 2010 from a merger of seven savings banks, about half the 38 billion euros of real estate development loans held at the end of last year were classified as “doubtful” or at risk of becoming so, according to the company’s annual report. Bad loans across the Valencia-based group, which has the biggest Spanish asset base, reached 8.7 percent in December, and the firm renegotiated almost 10 billion euros of assets in 2011, about 5 percent of its loan book, to prevent them from defaulting.

The government, which came to power in December, announced yesterday that it will take control of Bankia with a 45 percent stake by converting 4.5 billion euros of preferred shares into ordinary stock. The central bank said the lender needs to present a stronger cleanup plan and “consider the contribution of public funds” to help with that.

Rajoy Measures

The Bank of Spain has lost its prestige for failing to supervise banks sufficiently, said Josep Duran i Lleida, leader of Catalan party Convergencia i Unio, which often backs Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government. Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez doesn’t need to resign at this point because his term expires in July, Duran said.

Rajoy has shied away from using public funds to shore up the banks, after his predecessor injected 15 billion euros into the financial system. He softened his position earlier this week following a report by the International Monetary Fund that said the country needs to clean up the balance sheets of “weak institutions quickly and adequately” and may need to use government funds to do so.

“The last thing I want to do is lend public money, as has been done in the past, but if it were necessary to get the credit to save the Spanish banking system, I wouldn’t renounce that,” Rajoy told radio station Onda Cero on May 7.

Santander, BBVA

Rajoy said he would announce new measures to bolster confidence in the banking system tomorrow, without giving details. He might ask banks to boost provisions by 30 billion euros, said a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified because the decision hadn’t been announced.

Spain’s two largest lenders, Banco Santander SA (SAN) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), earn most of their income outside the country and have assets in Latin America they can sell to raise cash if they need to bolster capital. In addition to Bankia, there are more than a dozen regional banks that are almost exclusively domestic and have few assets outside the country to sell to help plug losses.

In investor presentations, the Bank of Spain has said provisions for bad debt would cover losses of between 53 percent and 80 percent on loans for land, housing under construction and finished developments. An additional 30 billion euros would increase coverage to 56 percent of such loans, leaving nothing to absorb losses on 650 billion euros of home mortgages held by Spanish banks or 800 billion euros of company loans.

Housing Bubble

“Spain is constantly playing catch-up, so it’s always several steps behind,” said Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, a consulting firm in London specializing in sovereign-credit risk. “They should have gone down the Irish route, bit the bullet and taken on the losses. Every time they announce a small new measure, the goal posts have already moved because of deterioration in the economy.”

Without aggressive writedowns, Spanish banks can’t access market funding and the government can’t convince investors its lenders can survive a contracting economy, said Benjamin Hesse, who manages five financial-stock funds at Fidelity Investments in Boston, which has $1.6 trillion under management.

Spanish banks have “a 1.7 trillion-euro loan book, one of the world’s largest, and they haven’t even started marking it,” Hesse said. “The housing bubble was twice the size of the U.S. in terms of peak prices versus 1990 prices. It’s huge. And there’s no way out for Spain.”

Irish Losses

House prices in Spain more than doubled in a decade and have dropped 30 percent since the first quarter of 2008. U.S. homes, which also doubled in value, have lost 35 percent. Ireland’s have fallen 49 percent after quadrupling.

Ireland injected 63 billion euros into its banks to recapitalize them after shifting property-development loans to the National Asset Management Agency, or NAMA, and requiring other writedowns. That forced the country to seek 68 billion euros in financial aid from the European Union and the IMF.

The losses of bailed-out domestic banks in Ireland have reached 21 percent of their total loans. Spanish banks have reserved for 6 percent of their lending books.

“The upfront loss recognition Ireland forced on the banks helped build confidence,” said Edward Parker, London-based head of European sovereign-credit analysis at Fitch Ratings. “In contrast, Spain has had a constant trickle of bad news about its banks, which doesn’t instill confidence.”

Mortgage Defaults

Spain’s home-loan defaults were 2.7 percent in December, according to the Spanish mortgage association. Home prices are propped up and default rates underreported because banks don’t want to recognize losses, according to Borja Mateo, author of “The Truth About the Spanish Real Estate Market.” Developers are still building new houses around the country, even with 2 million vacant homes.

Ireland’s mortgage-default rate was about 7 percent in 2010, before the government pushed for writedowns, with an additional 5 percent being restructured, according to the Central Bank of Ireland. A year later, overdue and restructured home loans reached 18 percent. At the typical 40 percent recovery rate, Irish banks stand to lose 11 percent of their mortgage portfolios, more than the 7 percent assumed by the central bank in its stress tests. That has led to concern the government may need to inject more capital into the lenders.

‘The New Ireland’

Spain, like Ireland, can’t simply let its financial firms fail. Ireland tried to stick banks’ creditors with losses and was overruled by the EU, which said defaulting on senior debt would raise the specter of contagion and spook investors away from all European banks. Ireland did force subordinated bondholders to take about 15 billion euros of losses.

The EU was protecting German and French banks, among the biggest creditors to Irish lenders, said Marshall Auerback, global portfolio strategist for Madison Street Partners LLC, a Denver-based hedge fund.

“Spain will be the new Ireland,” Auerback said. “Germany is forcing once again the socialization of its banks’ losses in a periphery country and creating sovereign risk, just like it did with Ireland.”

Spanish government officials and bank executives have downplayed potential losses on home loans by pointing to the difference between U.S. and Spanish housing markets. In the U.S., a lender’s only option when a borrower defaults is to seize the house and settle for whatever it can get from a sale. The borrower owes nothing more in this system, called non- recourse lending.

‘More Pressure’

In Spain, a bank can go after other assets of the borrower, who remains on the hook for the debt no matter what the price of the house when sold. Still, the same extended liability didn’t stop the Irish from defaulting on home loans as the economy contracted, incomes fell and unemployment rose to 14 percent.

“As the economy deteriorates, the quality of assets is going to get worse,” said Daragh Quinn, an analyst at Nomura International in Madrid. “Corporate loans are probably going to be a bigger worry than mortgages, but losses will keep rising. Some of the larger banks, in particular BBVA and Santander, will be able to generate enough profits to absorb this deterioration, but other purely domestic ones could come under more pressure.”

Spain’s government has said it wants to find private-sector solutions. Among those being considered are plans to let lenders set up bad banks and to sell toxic assets to outside investors.

Correlation Risk

Those proposals won’t work because third-party investors would require bigger discounts on real estate assets than banks will be willing to offer, RBC’s Lee said.

Spanish banks face another risk, beyond souring loans: They have been buying government bonds in recent months. Holdings of Spanish sovereign debt by lenders based in the country jumped 32 percent to 231 billion euros in the four months ended in February, data from Spain’s treasury show.

That increases the correlation of risk between banks and the government. If Spain rescues its lenders, the public debt increases, threatening the sovereign’s solvency. When Greece restructured its debt, swapping bonds at a 50 percent discount, Greek banks lost billions of euros and had to be recapitalized by the state, which had to borrow more from the EU to do so.

In a scenario where Spain is forced to restructure its debt, even a 20 percent discount could spell almost 50 billion euros of additional losses for the country’s banks.

“Spain will have to turn to the EU for funds to solve its banking problem,” said Madison Street’s Auerback. “But there’s little money left after the other bailouts, so what will Spain get? That’s what worries everybody.”

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