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.

ALL MAJOR FINANCIAL FEDERAL AGENCIES ENTER CEASE AND DESIST ORDER AGAINST MERS

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ALL MAJOR FEDERAL AGENCIES JOIN IN ORDERING MERS TO STOP CURRENT PRACTICES

Just released. Thanks to Dan Edstrom our senior securitization analyst for alerting me.

SEE MERS_Cease_and_Desist_2011_04_13

MERS AND MERSCORP ENTERED INTO A CONSENT CEASE AND DESIST ORDER FINDING DEFICIENCIES IN THE PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES THAT POSE A RISK TO THE MEMBER BANKS.

ABSTRACT OF ORDER

The Agencies find, and MERS and MERSCORP neither admit nor deny, the following:
(1)    MERS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MERSCORP. MERSCORP’s shareholders include federally regulated financial institutions that own and/or service residential mortgages, including Examined Members, and other primary and secondary mortgage industry participants.
(2)    MERSCORP operates a national electronic registry that tracks beneficial ownership interests and servicing rights associated with residential mortgage loans and any changes in those interests or rights. There are approximately 5,000 participating Members, of which 3,000 are residential mortgage servicers. Members register loans and report transfers, foreclosures, and other changes to the status of residential mortgage loans on the MERS System. There are currently approximately 31 million active residential mortgage loans registered on the MERS System. Examined Members receive a substantial portion of the services provided by MERSCORP and MERS.
(3)    MERS serves as mortgagee of record and nominee for the participating Members in local land records. MERS takes action as mortgagee through documents executed by “certifying officers” of MERS. MERS has designated these individuals, who are officers or employees of Members or certain third-parties who have contractual relationships with Members, as officers of MERS. By virtue of these designations, the certifying officers execute legal documents in the name of MERS, such as mortgage assignments and lien releases.
MERS Consent Order
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(4)    In connection with services provided to Examined Members related to tracking, and registering residential mortgage loans and initiating foreclosures (“residential mortgage and foreclosure-related services”), MERS and MERSCORP:
(a)    have failed to exercise appropriate oversight, management supervision and corporate governance, and have failed to devote adequate financial, staffing, training, and legal resources to ensure proper administration and delivery of services to Examined Members; and
(b)    have failed to establish and maintain adequate internal controls, policies, and procedures, compliance risk management, and internal audit and reporting requirements with respect to the administration and delivery of services to Examined Members.
(5)    By reason of the conduct set forth above, MERS and MERSCORP engaged in unsafe or unsound practices that expose them and Examined Members to unacceptable operational, compliance, legal, and reputational risks.
Pursuant to the authority vested in them by the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, 12 U.S.C. §§ 1818(b), the Bank Service Company Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1867(c)-(d), and the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act, 12 U.S.C. § 4631, the Agencies hereby ORDER that:
ARTICLE III COMPLIANCE COMMITTEE
(1)    Within twenty (20) days of this Order, the Boards of Directors of MERSCORP and MERS (the “Boards”) shall each establish and thereafter maintain a Compliance Committee of at least three (3) directors, of which at least two (2) may not be employees or officers of MERS or MERSCORP or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates. In the event of a change of the
MERS Consent Order
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membership, the name of any new committee member shall be submitted to the OCC Deputy Comptroller for Large Bank Supervision (“Deputy Comptroller”). The Compliance Committee shall be responsible for monitoring and coordinating MERS’ and MERSCORP’s compliance with the terms and provisions of this Order. The Compliance Committee shall meet at least monthly and maintain minutes of its meetings.
(2)    Within ninety (90) days of this Order, and within thirty (30) days of the end of each calendar quarter thereafter, the Compliance Committee shall submit a written progress report to the Boards setting forth in detail its actions taken to comply with each Article of this Consent Order, and the results and status of those actions.
(3)    The Boards shall forward a copy of the Compliance Committee’s report, with any additional comments by the Boards, to the Deputy Comptroller and the OCC Examiner-in- Charge within ten (10) days of receiving such report.
ARTICLE IV ACTION PLAN
(1)    Within ninety (90) days of this Order, MERS and MERSCORP shall jointly develop and submit to the Deputy Comptroller an acceptable plan containing a complete description of the actions that are necessary and appropriate to achieve compliance with the terms and provisions of this Order (“Action Plan”), as well as the resources to be devoted to the planned actions, with respect to services provided to Examined Members. In the event the Deputy Comptroller requests MERS or MERSCORP to revise the Action Plan, they shall immediately make the requested revisions and resubmit the Action Plan to the Deputy Comptroller. Following acceptance of the Action Plan by the Deputy Comptroller, MERS and
MERS Consent Order
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MERSCORP shall not take any action that would constitute a significant deviation from, or material change to the requirements of the Action Plan, or this Order, unless and until MERS or MERSCORP have received a prior written determination of no supervisory objection from the Deputy Comptroller.
(2)    The Boards shall ensure that MERS and MERSCORP achieve and thereafter maintain compliance with this Order, including, without limitation, successful implementation of the Action Plan. The Boards shall further ensure that, upon implementation of the Action Plan, MERS and MERSCORP achieve and maintain effective residential mortgage and foreclosure- related services on behalf of Examined Members, as well as associated risk management, compliance, quality control, audit, training, staffing, and related functions. In order to comply with these requirements, the Boards shall:
(a)    require the timely reporting by MERS and MERSCORP management of such actions taken to comply with this Order and/or directed by either Board to be taken pursuant to this Order;
(b)    follow-up on any compliance issues with such actions in a timely and appropriate manner; and
(c)    require corrective action be taken in a timely manner for any non- compliance with such actions.
(3)    The Action Plan shall address, at a minimum: (a)    the capability of the Boards and senior management to ensure that MERS
and MERSCORP are operated in a safe and sound manner in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and requirements of this Order;
MERS Consent Order
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(b)    development and implementation of a strategic plan to include a comprehensive review of business operations, including the risks associated with each business line, and recommendations to implement the strategic plan;
(c)    consistent with the strategic plan, development and implementation of a financial plan to ensure that MERSCORP and MERS have adequate financial strength to support business operations related to Examined Members. The financial plan, at a minimum, shall address:
capital;
and liquidity risk; and
(i)
(ii)
any need for additional capital, including the amount and source of
the identification, measurement, monitoring and control of funding
(iii) discretionary expenses and improve and sustain earnings, as well as maintain adequate reserves for contingency risks and liabilities;
(d)    development and implementation of a comprehensive litigation strategy to effectively manage lawsuits and legal challenges involving MERS and MERSCORP, regardless of whether MERSCORP or MERS is a named party, including early identification and tracking of such lawsuits and challenges;
(e)    development and implementation of a communication plan to communicate effectively and in a timely manner with MERSCORP’s shareholders, Members including Examined Members, and relevant external parties;
(f)    development and implementation of a compliance and quality assurance program for ensuring that Examined Members implement and follow all of the Rules, including
MERS Consent Order
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a profit and budget plan to include specific goals to reduce
adherence to the requirements set forth in MERS Announcement 2011-01, dated February 16, 2011;
(g)    development and implementation of a plan to ensure that MERS certifying officers are transitioned expeditiously onto the Corporate Resolution Management System (“CRMS”) in accordance with MERS’ current certifying officer policy and process;
(h)    development and implementation of appropriate standards to maintain separation of corporate functions between MERS and MERSCORP;
(i)    review of the effectiveness of the Rules, and related Procedures, Terms and Conditions to determine what, if any, additions, amendments, or deletions are appropriate;
(j)    development and implementation of enhanced information reporting practices to senior management from lower levels of each organization, and from senior management to the Boards to ensure that significant issues are properly identified and escalated, and that corporate actions are considered, taken in a timely fashion, and properly documented;
(k)    any Matter Requiring Attention in the OCC Supervisory Letter No. MERS 2011-01, dated January 19, 2011, that addresses an issue that is not otherwise covered by provisions of this Order; and
(l)    development of contingency plans to address issues that arise with respect to any of the foregoing elements of the Action Plan, including plans that address operational continuity issues in the normal course of business and in a stressed environment.
(4)    The Action Plan shall specify timelines for completion of each of the requirements of this Order. The timelines in the Action Plan shall be consistent with any deadlines set forth in this Order.

PAYBACK TIME: $5.1 IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES AGAINST SERVICER ON A $79K CASE

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

“In short, loan servicing is a perfect setup for administrators who want to take advantage of both borrowers and lenders.” (Editor’s Note: Notice that the investors are referred to as lenders, hence the term “pretender lender” as to all others pretending to be lenders.)

“The investors also said that when borrowers tried to pay off or otherwise resolve defaulted loans, Compass/Silar refused to negotiate. In other cases when Compass/Silar urged the investors to modify troubled mortgages, the servicer reaped undisclosed fees in the deals.

The jury affirmed every claim the plaintiffs had brought against Compass/Silar, including conspiracy, as well as breach of contract, of fiduciary duty, and of good faith and fair dealing. The jury found improper actions by Compass/Silar on eight loans.”

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EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: For those slow learners out there practicing law, this might get your attention. The compensatory damages were $79,000. Punitive damages: $5,100,000. If the lawyers were on contingency, they just made over $2 million.

Besides the obvious importance of this case for investors and what is about to happen, you’ll notice that all the things we have been saying about the borrowers were alleged and proven against the servicer with respect to the investors. Thus you can understand why I have been saying that the interests of the investors and the interests of the borrowers are very similar and the factual basis of their claims are the same. The jury said GUILTY on breach of contract, of fiduciary duty, and of good faith and fair dealing. Sound familiar?

Borrowers take hope. The investors are doing some of your work for you. So is the SEC now and the attorney generals of all 50 states. But you have to take a stand if you want to play in this high stakes game. You can’t just wait for lightening to strike. Nobody is going to come knocking on the door handing you the deed to a home you thought you already lost and moved out of or satisfaction of mortgage or a check. It’s time for ALL homeowners who EVER had a loan (especially if originated after 1999) to go back to their paperwork and have it examined for potential claims. There’s probably gold in those mounds of paper.

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Opening the Bag of Mortgage Tricks

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

ALL the revelations this year about dubious practices in the mortgage servicing arena — think robo-signers and forged signatures — have rightly raised borrowers’ fears that companies handling their loans may not be operating on the up and up.

But borrowers aren’t the only ones concerned about potential mischief. Investors who hold mortgage securities are increasingly worried that servicers may be putting their interests ahead of those who own the loans.

A servicer might, for example, deny a loan modification to a borrower because it also owns a second mortgage on the same property and doesn’t want to write down that asset, as required in a modification. Levying outsize default fees is another tactic — the fees typically go to the servicer, not the lender, but they can still propel a property into foreclosure more quickly. And foreclosures aren’t a good outcome for investors.

Last week, a jury in federal district court in Reno, Nev., awarded a group of 50 mortgage investors $5.1 million in punitive damages against defendants in a loan servicing case. Although the numbers in the case aren’t large, its facts are fascinating. Indeed, the case exposed some of the tricks of the servicers’ trade.

The case is also notable because the main defendant, Silar Advisors, was one of the institutions that struck a deal in 2009 with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to buy the assets of a notorious failed bank, IndyMac. Of the $5.1 million in damages awarded in the case, Silar must pay $3 million.

John W. Bickel II, a co-founder of Bickel & Brewer in Dallas, represented the investors in the case. Because he represents an additional 1,450 investors whose loans were serviced by Silar, he said more suits like this one would follow soon.

Loan servicers act as intermediaries between borrowers and their lenders, collecting monthly payments and real estate taxes and forwarding them to the appropriate parties. As long as borrowers meet their payments, such operations typically run smoothly.

Defaults and foreclosures, however, complicate servicers’ duties. As the Silar matter shows, borrower difficulties also open the door to improprieties.

Because loan servicers operate behind the scenes, it’s hard for investors who own these mortgages to monitor fee-gouging. In addition, the servicing contracts make it difficult to fire administrators — under a typical arrangement, investors holding at least 51 percent of the loans must agree on termination.

In short, loan servicing is a perfect setup for administrators who want to take advantage of both borrowers and lenders.

Troubles for investors in the Silar matter began back in 2006 when the USA Commercial Mortgage Company went bankrupt. Founded in 1989, the company had underwritten and serviced short-term commercial real estate loans. It sold them to private investors, typically older people who hoped to live off the income generated by the loans. At the time of its bankruptcy, USA Commercial serviced 115 loans worth almost $1 billion.

After the company collapsed, a small firm called Compass Partners bought the servicing rights to these assets for $8 million. A short time later, Silar Advisors, a company overseen by Robert Leeds, a former Goldman Sachs executive, got involved by financing Compass. Compass/Silar began servicing the loans for the investors.

Almost immediately, the plaintiffs in the suit contended, Compass/Silar started siphoning off money owed to investors holding the loans. Among the servicer’s tactics, the plaintiffs said, were improperly charging default interest, late fees and loan origination fees that reduced amounts due to investors.

The investors also said that when borrowers tried to pay off or otherwise resolve defaulted loans, Compass/Silar refused to negotiate. In other cases when Compass/Silar urged the investors to modify troubled mortgages, the servicer reaped undisclosed fees in the deals.

THE jury affirmed every claim the plaintiffs had brought against Compass/Silar, including conspiracy, as well as breach of contract, of fiduciary duty, and of good faith and fair dealing. The jury found improper actions by Compass/Silar on eight loans.

A Silar spokesman said the firm was pleased that the jury awarded only $79,000 in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs but was disappointed by the punitive-damages assessment. “The jurors are to be commended for their careful consideration of the facts in a very lengthy trial,” the spokesman said. He declined to comment as to whether Silar was currently servicing any loans.

One loan history, on a defaulted asset known as Standard Property, indicates what these investors were up against with their servicer.

In March 2007, immediately after Compass/Silar took over administration of the investors’ loans, the Standard Property mortgage had a principal value of $9.64 million. The borrower wanted to repay the loan at that time, but instead of directing it to pay principal and the accrued interest to the holder of the loan, as required by the servicing agreement, Compass/Silar arranged for the borrower to refund only the principal.

At the same time, court papers show, Compass/Silar quietly took in almost $860,000 in late fees, default interest and other costs from the Standard Property borrower. This ran afoul of the servicing agreement governing the Standard Property mortgage. The agreement stated that such fees could go to the servicer only after investors had been paid principal and accrued interest on a loan.

“No one really knows what is in the black box known as loan servicing, and most investors don’t even think of their servicer taking advantage of them,” Mr. Bickel said in an interview. “There’s not a lot of transparency, and I think this case is going to bring to the forefront the potential for abuse.”

It is obvious that we are in the litigation stage of the financial debacle of 2008. That usually means shining the light on dark corners and watching what scurries away. The view may not be pretty, but at least in this case, investors got some recompense in addition to an education.

TBW Taylor Bean Chairman Arrested On Fraud Charges

“The fraud here is truly stunning in its scale and complexity,” said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Department of Justice. “These charges send a strong message to corporations and corporate executives alike that financial fraud will be found, and it will be prosecuted.”

Once they determined that that approach might be difficult to conceal, they started selling mortgage pools and other assets to Colonial Bank that they knew to be worthless, officials said. Mr. Farkas and his partners relied on this technique to sell more than $1 billion of fraudulent assets over the course of several years, even covering up the fraud by recycling old fake assets for new ones, according to the complaints.

Editor’s Note: TBW has been high on my list of incompetent fraudsters. I always thought it was a stupid risk to “sell” mortgages and “sell” the servicing rights (probably to their own entity), and then take the servicing back. Stupid maybe, but they had no choice. The entire Taylor Bean operation wreaks of fraud and inconsistencies.

Bottom Line: If you have a TBW as the originating “lender” this article indicates, as we have known all along, that they were using OPM (Other People’s Money) and they were NOT the lender even though they said they were. It is highly likely that few, if any, of the loans were actually “securitized” because the loans were either nonexistent as described, never accepted by any pool (even though there might be a pool out there that claims ownership) and that none of the assignments were ever completed.

Thus your claims against TBW (including appraisal fraud, predatory loan practices, deceptive loan practices, fraud etc.) are properly directed, to wit: TBW still owns the paper, although the obligation is subject to an equitable unsecured claim from investors who funded the loan.

June 16, 2010

Executive Charged in TARP Scheme

By ERIC DASH

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused the former chairman of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, once one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, of masterminding a fraud scheme that cheated investors and the federal government out of billions of dollars and led to last year’s sudden failure of Colonial Bank.

The executive, Lee B. Farkas, was arrested late Tuesday in Ocala, Fla., after a federal grand jury in Virginia indicted him on 16 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil fraud charges against Mr. Farkas in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said the fraud would be one of the biggest and most complex to come out of the housing collapse and the government’s huge bailout of the banking industry. In essence, they described an elaborate shell game that involved covering up the lender’s losses by creating fake mortgages and passing them along to private investors and government agencies.

Federal officials became suspicious after Colonial BancGroup, the main source of financing for Mr. Farkas’s company, tried to obtain $553 million in bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The TARP application, filed in early 2009, was contingent on the bank first raising $300 million from private investors.

According to the S.E.C. complaint, Mr. Farkas and his partners said they would contribute $150 million, two private equity firms would each contribute $50 million, and a “friends and family” investor group would contribute another $50 million. “In truth, neither of the $50 million investors were private equity investors and neither ever agreed to participate,” the complaint said.

Mr. Farkas pocketed at least $20 million from the fraud, which he used to finance a private jet and a lavish lifestyle that included five homes and a collection of vintage cars, prosecutors said.

But the case is likely to expand beyond Mr. Farkas. The complaints cite the involvement of an unnamed Colonial Bank executive and other co-conspirators in the suspected fraud, and prosecutors said they might hold others accountable down the road.

“The fraud here is truly stunning in its scale and complexity,” said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Department of Justice. “These charges send a strong message to corporations and corporate executives alike that financial fraud will be found, and it will be prosecuted.”

Officials said the many layers of the scheme resulted in more than $1.9 billion of losses to investors; a $3 billion loss to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which guaranteed many of the loans that Mr. Farkas’s company sold; and a $3.6 billion hit to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which had to take over Colonial Bank and pay its depositors after many of the bank’s assets were found to be worthless.

The complaints also list BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank, which provided financing to Mr. Farkas’s company, as victims of the suspected fraud. Together, they lost $1.5 billion.

According to the complaints, the fraud started as early as 2002 with an effort to conceal rising operating losses at Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, a mortgage lender founded by Mr. Farkas. The first stage involved an attempt to hide overdrafts on a credit line the company had with Colonial Bank. As those overdrafts grew, prosecutors contend, Mr. Farkas and his associates started selling fake mortgage assets to Colonial Bank in exchange for tens of millions of dollars.

Once they determined that that approach might be difficult to conceal, they started selling mortgage pools and other assets to Colonial Bank that they knew to be worthless, officials said. Mr. Farkas and his partners relied on this technique to sell more than $1 billion of fraudulent assets over the course of several years, even covering up the fraud by recycling old fake assets for new ones, according to the complaints.

The transactions were “designed to give the false appearance that the loans were being sold into the secondary mortgage market,” Mr. Breuer said. “In fact, they were not.”

By 2008, prosecutors contend, the scheme had entangled the federal government. Investigators in the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP took notice of the size of Colonial Bank’s bailout application and became suspicious of the accuracy of the bank’s statements.

That led investigators to alert other federal officials and draw a connection between Colonial Bank and Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, whose offices were raided by federal agents in August 2009. Both companies would soon stop operating.

“We knew it was a longstanding and close relationship between Colonial and T.B.W., and we decided that we needed to take a much closer look,” Neil M. Barofsky, the TARP special inspector general, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Investigators also discussed the situation with Treasury officials to “make sure the money would not go out the door.”

Federal officials have conducted nearly 80 criminal and civil investigations into companies that accepted TARP money, but so far they have filed charges in only one other case. In March, the head of Park Avenue Bank in Manhattan was accused of trying to defraud the government bailout program.

Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

Editor’s Note: Now the truth as reported here two years ago.
  • There were no losses.
  • They were making money hand over fist.
  • And this article focuses only on a single topic — some of the credit default swaps — those that Goldman had bought in its own name, leaving out all the other swaps bought by Goldman using other banks and entities as cover for their horrendous behavior.
  • It also leaves out all the other swaps bought by all the other investment banking houses.
  • But most of all it leaves out the fact that at no time did the investment banking firms actually own the mortgages that the world thinks caused enormous losses requiring the infamous bailout. It’s a fiction.
  • In nearly all cases they sold the securities “forward” which means they sold the securities first, collected the money second and then went looking for hapless consumers to sign documents that were called “loans.”
  • The securities created the intended chain of securitization wherein first the investors “owned” the loans (before they existed and before the first application was signed) and then the “loans” were “assigned” into the pool.
  • The pool was assigned into a Special Purpose Vehicle that issued “shares” (certificates, bonds, whatever you want to call them) to investors.
  • Those shares conveyed OWNERSHIP of the loan pool. Each share OWNED a percentage of the loans.
  • The so-called “trust” was merely an operating agreement between the investors that was controlled by the investment banking house through an entity called a “trustee.” All of it was a sham.
  • There was no trust, no trustee, no lending except from the investors, and no losses from mortgage defaults, because even with a steep default rate of 16% reported by some organizations, the insurance, swaps, and other guarantees and third party payments more than covered mortgage defaults.
  • The default that was not covered was the default in payment of principal to investors, which they will never see, because they never were actually given the dollar amount of mortgages they thought they were buying.
  • The entire crisis was and remains a computer enhanced hallucination that was used as a vehicle to keep stealing from investors, borrowers, taxpayers and anyone else they thought had money.
  • The “profits” made by NOT using the investor money to fund mortgages are sitting off shore in structured investment vehicles.
  • The actual funds, first sent to Bermuda and the caymans was then cycled around the world. The Ponzi scheme became a giant check- kiting scheme that hid the true nature of what they were doing.
April 24, 2010

Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

By LOUISE STORY, SEWELL CHAN and GRETCHEN MORGENSON

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they were making “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’ ” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced — or hedged, in industry parlance — then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet — what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” — came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before Congress.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect — I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

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