People Who Were Wrong Are the Winners — SO FAR

First of all I don’t think Geithner caused the financial crisis. He certainly contributed to it but it probably would have happened even if he had not undercut Sheila Bair at every opportunity; and yes he should have listened to other people who were saying that the corruption on Wall Street had reached epic proportions.

Second, I think that neither Geithner nor his predecessor, Hank Paulson, as Treasury secretaries, had a real understanding of the crisis at any time up through today. And their bosses, Presidents Bush and Obama were even more clueless. And while they are probably culpable for their negligence and mismanagement of the crisis, the foreclosure madness would have occurred anyway.

Third, it is my belief that the culprits on Wall Street with all their tentacles stretched out across the globe were unstoppable by anyone except a good government with the resources to actually get to the bottom of it. What was missing was the desire to get rid of the problem and the naivete of the leaders in government in failing to notice that the entire banking industry was engaged in faking transactions and documents — and failing to ask why that was necessary.

Fourth my opinion is that the fault lies with the failure of anyone in government to learn anything relevant about the industries they were supposed to be regulating. If they had done so, starting in 1983 when derivatives became adolescent, the adult would have been far more tame and the crises would have been averted entirely.

Homeowners did not create the crisis. Tens of millions of homeowners did not congregate in a room thinking up 450 loan products when there were only 4 or 5. And saying they had bad judgment would absolve almost any perpetrator of economic crime because his victim was too stupid.

The laws were already in place. It was knowledgeable people that were missing. We needed and had faithful servants of the people — but as a society and as a nation each country contributed to the enormous problem that has now been created. And we will keep paying for it as banks take over all commodities we hold dear and “legally” corner the markets with stolen cash and property.

In Nocera’s article on Bankrupt Housing Policy, he points out that ” in the course of perusing another new book about the financial crisis, “Other People’s Houses,” by Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School, I was reminded of an effort that took place in the spring of 2009 that could have made an enormous difference to homeowners, one that would have required no taxpayer money and might well have become law with a little energetic lobbying from the likes of, well, Tim Geithner. That was an attempt, led by Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator, to change the bankruptcy code so that homeowners who were underwater could modify their mortgages during the bankruptcy process. The moment has been largely forgotten; Taub has done us a favor by putting it back on the table.”

He goes on to say that he had correspondence with Sheila Bair who was undermined and stomped on by the Obama administration for even thinking about relief to homeowners. She was head of the FDIC and prevented from doing her job by a bankrupt policy of save the banks and damn the homeowners. “Because, as Bair told me in an email, “It would have been a powerful bargaining chip for borrowers.” Without the ability to file for bankruptcy, underwater homeowners unable to pay their mortgages were helpless to prevent foreclosures. With it, however, servicers and banks were far more likely to negotiate the debt load. And if they weren’t, a bankruptcy judge would rule on the appropriate debt to be repaid. For all the talk about the need for principal reduction, this change would have been the easiest way to get it.”

According to Adam Levitin, in the same article by Nocera, this should have been a “no-brainer.” I take that too mean that as I have explained above, brains were in short supply during the worst of what we have yet seen of the economic crisis that most of us think is not even half over. Obama may be leaving the crisis as his legacy not because he caused it but because he didn’t do anything about it — or at least anything right.

And I obviously agree with Nocera’s ending comment — “Why is it that the fear of moral hazard only applies to homeowners, and not to the banks?”

Gretchen Morgenson says Geithner admitted he was inept at times. ““We were human.” But this fails to address head-on the possibility that he was a captured regulator, a man locked into the mind-set of the very bankers he was supposed to oversee.”

Gretchen reports without objection from Geithner — “Last week, I asked Sheila C. Bair, the former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, for her recollection of these events. She replied with an email recalling that in 2006, she attended her first Basel Committee meeting, the international negotiations that Mr. Geithner was referring to. While there, she pushed unsuccessfully to raise bank capital levels.

Why was she unsuccessful? “I was actively undermined by the Fed, the New York Fed and the comptroller of the currency,” she said. “I later complained to Tim about the way his representative on the Basel Committee had undermined me. He was unapologetic.”

Gretchen has not been given the resources to prove the corruption on Wall Street, but she knows it is there and as the fourth estate the NY Times should have provided her with a blank check for what would have been a Pulitzer or even a Nobel prize. for now we can only agree with her — “We were the lenders of last resort and should have been paid an enormous premium for the use of our money. We were not.”

There are suddenly a spate of articles on what went wrong because Geithner wrote a book and is selling it enhancing his own fortunes while he presided over the worst hit the middle class has had in our history.

Here is what investigators should have been looking for:

Behind door number 1 were the fools. These are the money managers who for reasons the defy explanation did no due diligence and bought empty mortgage bonds issued by a trust that was never going to receive the money, the loans or the property.

Behind door number 2 were the wolves of Wall Street including all the different brokers, dealers, banks, rating agencies and insurers, all the mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, and closing agents and title companies all in league to take as much money as they could out of the system and the hide it behind shadow money equivalent to ten times all the actual money in the world.

Behind door number 3 are the victims. These are the people who knew nothing about mortgages, derivatives or anything else. In the end they were convinced by super salespeople that they could never understand how they could afford the loan nor could they even understand why they must do it anyway. In Florida alone 10,000 such sales people were convicted felons. And yet when we talk of moral hazard we speak of people, and not banks. Why is that?

The Big Cover-Up in Our Credit Nation

Regulators have confirmed that there were widespread errors by banks but that the errors didn’t really matter. They are trying to tell us that the errors had to do with modifications and other matters that really didn’t have any bearing on whether the loans were owned by parties seeking foreclosure or on whether the balance alleged to be due could be confirmed in any way, after deducting third party payments received by the foreclosing party. Every lawyer who spends their time doing foreclosure litigation knows that report is dead wrong.

So the government is actively assisting the banks is covering up the largest scam in human history. The banks own most of the people in government so it should come as no surprise. This finding will be used again and again to say that the complaints from borrowers are just disgruntled homeowners seeking to find their way out of self inflicted wound.

And now they seek to tell us in the courts that nothing there matters either. It doesn’t matter whether the foreclosing party actually owns the loan, received delivery of the note, or a valid assignment of the mortgage for value. The law says it matters but the bank lawyers, some appellate courts and lots of state court judges say that doesn’t apply — you got the money and stopped paying. That is all they need to know. So let’s look at that.

If I found out you were behind in your credit card payments and sued you, under the present theory you would have no defense to my lawsuit. It would be enough that you borrowed the money and stopped paying. The fact that I never loaned you the money nor bought the loan would be of no consequence. What about the credit card company?

Well first they would have to find out about the lawsuit to do anything. Second they could still bring their own lawsuit because mine was completely unfounded. And they could collect again. In the world of fake REMIC trusts, the trust beneficiaries have no right to the information on your loan nor the ability to inquire, audit or otherwise figure out what happened tot heir investment.

It is the perfect steal. The investors (like the credit card company) are getting paid by the borrowers and third party payments from insurance etc. or they have settled with the broker dealers on the fraudulent bonds. So when some stranger comes in and sues on the debt, or sues in foreclosure or issues of notice of default and notice of sale, the defense that the borrower has no debt relationship with the foreclosing party is swept aside.

The fact that neither the actual lender nor the actual victim of this scheme will ever be compensated for their loss doesn’t matter as long as the homeowner loses their home.  This is upside down law and politics. We have seen the banks intervene in student loans and drive that up to over $1 trillion in a country where the average household is $15,000 in debt — a total of $13 trillion dollars. The banks are inserting themselves in all sorts of transactions producing bizarre results.

The net result is undermining the U.S. economy and undermining the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world. Lots of people talk about the fact that we have already lost 20% of our position as the reserve currency and that we are clearly headed for a decline to 50% and then poof, we will be just another country with a struggling currency. Printing money won’t be an option. Options are being explored to replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. No longer are companies requiring payments in U.S. dollars as the trend continues.

The banks themselves are preparing for a sudden devaluation of currency by getting into commodities rather than holding their money in US Currency. The same is true for most international corporations. We are on the verge of another collapse. And contrary to what the paid pundits of the banks are saying the answer is simple — just like Iceland did it — apply the law and reduce the household debt. The result is a healthy economy again and a strong dollar. But too many people are too heavily invested or tied to the banks to allow that option except on a case by case basis. So that is what we need to do — beat them on a case by case basis.

Here it is: Nonjudicial Foreclosure Violates Due Process in Complex Structured Finance Transactions

No, there isn’t a case yet. But here is my argument.

The main point is that we are forced to accept the burden of disproving a case that had not been filed — the very essence of nonjudicial foreclosure. In order to comply with due process, a simple denial of the facts and legal authority to foreclosure should be sufficient to force the case into a courtroom where the parties are realigned with the so-called new beneficiary is the Plaintiff and the homeowner is the Defendant — since it is the “beneficiary” who is seeking affirmative relief.

But the way it is done and required to be done, the Plaintiff must file an attack on a case that has never been alleged anywhere in or out of court. The new beneficiary anoints itself, files a fraudulent substitution of trustee because the old one would never go along with it, and then files a notice of default and notice of sale all on the premise that they have the necessary proof and documents to support what could have been an action in foreclosure brought by them in a judicial manner, for which there is adequate provision in California law.

Instead nonjudicial foreclosure is being used to sell property under circumstances where the alleged beneficiary under the deed of trust could never prevail in a court proceeding. Nonjudicial foreclosure was meant to be an expedient method of dealing with the vast majority of foreclosures when the statute was passed. In that vast majority, the usual procedure was complaint, default, judgment and then sale with at least one hearing in between. Nearly all foreclosures were resolved that way and it become more of a ministerial act for Judges than an actual trier of fact or judge of procedural rights and wrongs.

But the situation is changed. The corruption on Wall Street has been systemic resulting in whole sale fraudulent fabricated forged documents together with perjury by affidavit and even live testimony. Contrary to the consensus supported by the banks, these cases are complex because the party seeking affirmative relief — i.e., the new “beneficiary” is following a complex script established long before the homeowner ever applied for a loan or was solicited to finance her property.

The San Francisco study concluded, like dozens of other studies across the country that most of the foreclosures were resolved in favor of “strangers to the transaction.” By definition, the use of several layers of companies and multiple sets of documents defining two separate deals (one with the investor lenders and one with the borrower, with the only party in common being the broker dealer selling mortgage bonds and their controlled entities) has turned the mundane into highly complex litigation that has no venue. In non-judicial foreclosures the Trustee is the party who acts to sell the property under instructions from the beneficiary and does so without inquiry and without paying any attention to the obvious conflict between the title record, the securitization record, the homeowner’s position and the prior record owner of the loan.

The Trustee has no power to conduct a hearing, administrative or judicial, and so the dispute remains unresolved while the Trustee proceeds to sell the property knowing that the homeowner has raised objections. Under normal circumstances under existing common law and statutory authority, the Trustee would simply bring the matter to court in an action for interpleader saying there is a dispute that he doesn’t have the power to resolve. You might think this would clog the court system. That is not the case, although some effort by the banks would be made to do just that. Under existing common law and statutory law, the beneficiary would then need to file a complaint, verified, sworn with real exhibits and that are subject to real scrutiny before any burden of proof would shift to the homeowner. And as complex as these transactions are they all are subject to simple rules concerning financial transactions. If there was no money in the alleged transaction then the allegation of a transaction is false.

It was and remains a mistake to allow such loans to be foreclosed through any means other than strictly judicial where the “beneficiary” must allege and prove ownership and the balance due on the loan owed to THAT beneficiary. Requiring homeowners with zero sophistication in finance and litigation to bear the initial burden of proof in such highly complex structured finance schemes defies logic and common sense as well as being violative of due process in the application of the nonjudicial statutes to these allegedly securitized loans.

By forcing the parties and judges who sit on the bench to treat these complex issues as though they were simple cases, the enabling statutes for nonjudicial foreclosure are being applied unconstitutionally.

The most important thing about cross examination in foreclosure cases

Whether it is on voir dire, which is a limited examination before the witness testifies to determine the legal competency of the witness, or on actual cross examination, the object is to bring out facts that are helpful in making your case or defending your position. When I teach cross examination, I refer to the triad — three things you must do in order to reach your goal. The three things are first to have a simple question with a goal in mind. Second to listen to the answer. Third, is the follow up, because you knew the probable answer and now you want to bring home your point. This applies to every question.

The first requires preparation for trial in which you decide your narrative and then develop the key points necessary to bring the court to the point where the trier of fact (mostly judges in foreclosure cases) joins your narrative. You’ll know if they have joined you or are leaning that way by their ruling on objections, by the questions they ask — and one warning sign that you are losing them is when they ask you for the relevancy of your question. Without preparation and a strong narrative to which you are committed, you won’t be able to answer the question about relevancy and you will have no issue preserved for appeal. You are probably looking to establish a question of ownership of the loan and to establish a question of the balance due, if any. The details on this are left out of this article because the opposition reads this and will be ready for you if we publish the series of retreads that apply to trying a foreclosure case.

Second is listening. This is something that lawyers need to do and is the reason they were hired in the first place. The homeowner is too emotionally attached to listen. They hear but they don’t listen and they don’t understand the significance of the question or the answer. Coming to court with a list of questions is a good idea. But many lawyers and pro se litigants fail because of the difference between hearing and listening. The answer is that most people just hear what’s being said. Others take the time to actually listen to what’s being said. There is a significant and monumental difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means that someone “hears” what’s being said and then translates the message into a meaning for himself. When you listen, however, you also take an extra moment to think about the person who’s speaking. It’s only then that you’ll have a clear understanding of what is trying to be conveyed. And only then can you move on to the third step.

The third step is follow-up. This is often confused with moving on to the next question. But your first question in the triad is merely the set up. The real stuff is in your follow-up because you actually listen to exactly what is being said. If the lawyer for the bank asks if the witness is familiar with the books and records of the Servicer, your objection is going to be leading, lack of foundation, and potentially hearsay. If you don’t object then the testimony comes in simply because you failed to object and thus preserve the issue for appeal. You will be subject to the same objections from the other side if you don’t have your ducks in a row.

So if the witness says he is “familiar” with the books and records, you should ask why, and then follow up with questions directed at how he prepared, how he actually knows (personal knowledge) that there was a loan from ABC, and exactly what he looked at in terms of documentation or computer screens. The answers will surprise you in some cases. Take the time to listen to the surprise answer and pause a moment on what you want to do with it and how you can make that answer serve the interests of your client.

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.

Countrywide settlement pays fraction to investors – Shell Game Continues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The shell game continues. While the media picks up stories about “settlements” giving rise to the presumption that Countrywide Home Loans and Bank of America and the rest of the securitization players committed various violations of statutes, duties, rules and regulations, the main point gets lost. Where is this money going and WHY? What is the tacit or express admission in paying that money and what effect does it have on the average homeowner sitting with a loan whose obligation is being paid in these settlements?

Think about it. If Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide, is paying “fractions” to investors who purchased mortgage bonds then who is it that owns the underlying mortgages and loans? Did Bank of America pay the investors do it under a reservation of rights (subrogation) to enforce the underlying loans? If not, then why are they foreclosing? All evidence is to the contrary. There is no subrogation under these purchases, insurance, credit default swaps or any other contract — not that I ever saw and not that my sources in the industry tell me was ever even contemplated much less executed. The same holds true for all those bonds the Federal Reserve is holding.

If Bank of America is paying “fractions” to investors who purchased mortgage bonds, why was it a fraction? Is it because the value of the bond was much lower than the price paid by the investor? Is it just a convenient settlement? Or is it because the investors have also received funds from other sources?

This is what I am referring to when I address “factual constipation.” How are these payments being allocated? Did the owners of the bonds actually have any definable interest in the underlying mortgage loans? If they did, why are these payments not being allocated to the obligations or payments due under those underlying mortgage loans? If they didn’t, why did they get paid anything? How will we ever know without getting a full accounting from all the parties that claim some stake or ownership interest or receivable interest in me is underlying mortgage loans?

It is black letter law as well as common law dating back centuries that nobody can collect the same debt more than once. If they do collect more than once there is a clear right of action by the borrower to collect the excess payment through a lawsuit for unjust enrichment, breach of contract and other causes of action. Here we have an intentional act designed to collect the same debt multiple times. In my opinion this does not merely indicate the presence of an action for fraud, it clearly shows an interstate pattern of racketeering that at one time in our history had the Department of Justice and the FBI busy putting people in jail.

Only in America where the news has turned into an entertainment blitz used by those with the most power and the most money to get their message across, even if it is a total lie. Somehow many if not most people have the impression that the borrowers and the securitized mortgages executed between 2001 and 2009 are not entitled to the relief that any other debtor is entitled to receive––that is the obligation has been reduced for any reason, the borrowers should get credit and if any party receives money in excess of the net amount due after credits, the creditor becomes the debtor owing money to the former borrower.

The bullet point that is being used to distort the perception of our citizens and policymakers is that these borrowers should not get a  “free house.” Without getting a full accounting from all parties that advanced funds to and from the original investors who purchased mortgage bonds or collateralized debt obligations and related hedge products, there is no way of knowing the amount of the credit which is due to the borrower. Yes, it is possible that the amount received by the various intermediaries in the securitization chain exceeded the original obligation due from the borrower.

In that case, the borrower owes nothing to the originating lender or the successors to that lender. But if there is still a class of investor or institution that can prove a loss resulting from the nonpayment of the obligation by the borrower (as opposed to non-payment from other parties in the securitization chain) then the law allows that party to recover the loss from those that caused it.  That probably includes the borrower, which means that we are not seeking a free house, we are seeking a truthful accounting.

BUT the fact that this obligation theoretically exists does not mean and never did mean under any legal decision in existence that the obligation should be paid to anybody who claims it. By all substantive and procedural law, the obligation is payable to one who proves the obligation and to one who proves it is owed to them and nobody else.

Yet in the view of many judges the challenge by the borrower is viewed as a delay tactic or an attempt to use technical deficiencies to a gain a free house on a lawn that the borrower sought but could not pay.  No doubt this is true in some cases. But in nearly all the cases, armies of salespeople using names like “loan expert” pounded on doors and rang the phones of people who had no thought of borrowing money on homes, in many cases, that were debt-free and had been in the family for generations. Now many of those homes are bank owned property.

The simple question that needs to be posed to anyone who looks at the borrower as anything other than a victim is which is more likely? Did the owners of 20 million homes enter into a conspiracy to defraud the financial system, half society and our taxpayers? Did these people have the sophistication, education, knowledge, experience or training to pull off such a caper? Or is it more likely that the Wall Street titans stepped over the line and instead of increasing liquidity for the benefit of consumers and small businesses, used their position to deplete the resources of unsuspecting citizens, pension funds, financial institutions and governmental units from the top federal levels down to the smallest local geographical areas?

Countrywide settlement pays fraction to investors

By ALAN ZIBEL (AP) – Aug 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — Former shareholders of fallen mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp. are in line to recoup a fraction of their investments now that a Los Angeles judge has approved a settlement worth more than $600 million settlement.

The payoff doesn’t come close to compensating for the money lost by investors. But it could prompt more lenders to settle legal disputes at the center of the housing bust.

Bank of America, which bought Countrywide two years ago, agreed to pay $600 million to end a class-action case filed against the company. KPMG, Countrywide’s accounting firm, will pay $24 million.

Several New York pension funds who served as lead plaintiffs alleged that Countrywide hid how risky its business had become during the housing market’s boom years. Calabasas, Calif.-based Countrywide was once the nation’s largest mortgage lender.

The agreement stands to return about 40 cents per share of Countrywide’s common stock, before legal fees and expenses. Consider that the stock peaked at $45 a share in February 2007, before the financial crisis. So an investor who held 100 shares could bank on receiving $40 for an investment that was once worth $4,500.

Shareholders did receive 0.1822 shares of Bank of America’s stock for each share of Countrywide they owned when Bank of America acquired Countrywide. That worked out to about one share for every 5.5 shares of Countrywide stock. Shares of Bank of America closed at $14.34 on Tuesday. So that same 100 shares of Countrywide would be worth about $261 today in Bank of America stock.

Add the $40 from the settlement and those shares are now worth little more than $300.

Lawyers for the pension funds are requesting $56 million, or 4 cents per share, for fees and other costs.

Investors “will be compensated for a significant portion of the legal damages that they suffered as a result of what we believe was a violation of the securities laws,” said Joel Bernstein, a lawyer for the pension funds. “They won’t be compensated for every penny of that.”

Bank of America has been trying to put Countrywide’s legal problems behind it. In June, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company agreed to pay $108 million to settle the Federal Trade Commission’s charges that Countrywide collected outsized fees from about 200,000 borrowers facing foreclosure.

It reached a settlement Monday primarily to keep legal fees from escalating, a bank spokeswoman said.

“Countrywide denies all allegations of wrongdoing and any liability under the federal securities laws,” said Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Bank of America. “We agreed to the settlement to avoid the additional expense and uncertainty associated with continued litigation.”

Plaintiffs attorneys have pursed lawsuits against numerous lenders and investment banks in the wake of the housing market’s devastating downturn, and the Countrywide settlement could encourage even more such cases, said Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate at The Corporate Library, an independent corporate governance research firm.

“There are a lot of suits out there waiting to get launched,” Hodgson said. “I think this is the opening of the floodgates.”

Former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, former President David Sambol, former CFO Eric Sieracki and former board members were named in the litigation but are not contributing to the settlement.

But it does not end their legal problems. More than a year ago the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil fraud charges against Mozilo and the two other former executives. Mozilo, the most high-profile individual to face charges from the government in the aftermath of the financial crisis, has denied any wrongdoing.

For Countrywide, “This is only a chapter and not the end of the book,” said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University.

Foreclosure Prevention 1.1

Nobody ever thought that returning a lady’s purse to her after a purse snatcher ran away with it was a gift. So why is anyone contesting returning the purse to homeowners who had their lives snatched from them?

The baby steps of the Obama administration are frustrating. Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and those who walk with Wall Street are using ideology and assumptions instead of reality and facts.

First they started with the idea of modifications. That would do it. Just change the terms a little, have the homeowner release rights and defenses to what was a completely fraudulent and deceptive loan transaction (and a violation of securities regulations) and the foreclosure mess would end. No, it doesn’t work that way.

The reality is that these homeowners are being drained every day and displaced from their lives and homes by the consequences of a scheme that depended upon fooling people into signing mortgages under the false assumption that the appraisal had been verified and that the loan product was viable. All sorts of tricks were used to make borrowers think that an underwriting process was under way when in fact, it was only a checklist, they were even doing title checks (using credit reports instead), and the viability of the loan was antithetical to their goals, to wit: to have the loans fail, collect on the insurance and get the house too without ever reporting a loss.

Then it went to modification through interest rate reduction and adding the unpaid monthly payments to the end of the mortgage. Brilliant idea. The experts decided that an interest rate reduction was the equivalent of a principal reduction and that everything would even out over time.

Adding ANYTHING to principal due on the note only put these people further under water and reduced any incentive they had to maintain their payments or the property. Reducing the interest was only the equivalent of principal reduction when you looked at the monthly payments; the homeowner was still buried forever, without hope of recovery, under a mountain of debt based upon a false value associated with the property and a false rating of the loan product.

Adding insult to injury, the Obama administration gave $10 billion to servicing companies to do modifications — not even realizing that servicers have no authority to modify and might not even have the authority to service. Anyone who received such a modification (a) got a temporary modification called a “trial” (b) ended up back in foreclosure anyway (c) was used once again for unworthy unauthorized companies to collect even more illegal fees and (d) was part of a gift to servicers who were getting a house on which they had invested nothing, while the real source of funds was already paid in whole or in part by insurance, credit default swaps or federal bailout.

Now the Obama administration is “encouraging” modifications with reductions in principal of perhaps 30%. But the industry is pushing back because they don’t want to report the loss that would appear on their books now, if a modification occurred, when they could delay reporting the “loss” indefinitely by continuing the foreclosure process. The “loss” is fictitious and the push-back is an illusion. There is no loss from non-performance of these mortgages on the part of lending banks because they never lent any money other than the money of investors who purchased mortgage-backed bonds.

You want to stop the foreclosures. It really is very simple. Stop lying to the American people whether it is intentional or not. Admit that the homes they bought were not worth the amount set forth in the appraisal and not worth what the “lender” (who was no lender) “verified.” Through criminal, civil and/or administrative proceedings, get the facts and change the deals like any other fraud case. Nobody ever thought that returning a lady’s purse to her after a purse snatcher ran away with it was a gift. So why is anyone contesting returning the purse to homeowners who had their lives snatched from them?

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