Federal Reserve Continues Welfare Payments to Banks

If the bond buying program had been directed at direct assistance to investors and homeowners, the crisis would already be over and GDP would be rising by at least 3.5%, unemployment at 5% or less, and the deficit would be eliminated on an annual basis and vastly reduced long term. Debt would cease to be a problem which means that Banks would lose their position of complete dominance.

As Iceland shows all day and all month and all year, even the banks would be prospering and litigation would be virtually eliminated with respect to the validity and enforcement of mortgages and assignments. The cleanup would become the cure. The corruption of title is not problem in several countries because the county recorders wouldn’t accept the garbage that the banks were filing here. We have toxic title and the illusion of a healthy economy. Others do not have toxic title and are dealing with reality, warts and all.

Fed Announces Continued Bond Purchases, Mortgage Rates Fall
http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20130626_bondpurchases.htm

It’s Official: Bank of America Has the Worst Reputation in the Banking Industry
http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/06/25/its-official-bank-of-america-has-the-worst-reputat.aspx

17 Signs That Most Americans Will Be Wiped Out By The Coming Economic Collapse
http://www.zerohedge.com/node/475692

Meet the Nation’s Toughest New Foreclosure Protection Law
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/06/meet-nations-toughest-new-foreclosure-protection-law/5952/

BUYING A HOUSE, BUYER BEWARE! Foreclosure documentation issues trap investors, creating litigation risk
http://www.housingwire.com/fastnews/2013/06/21/foreclosure-documentation-issues-trap-investors-creating-litigation-risk

Bank Of America Allegedly Gave Cash Bonuses To Workers Pushing Homeowners Into Foreclosure
http://www.businessinsider.com/bofa-sued-over-foreclosure-practices-2013-6

WHY WOULD A BANK BE SO ANXIOUS TO FORECLOSE IF IT WAS GOING TO ABANDON THE PROPERTY? Nearly 3 in 10 Oregon homes in foreclosure vacant
http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/06/28_of_oregon_homes_in_foreclos.html

Foreclosures Are Still a Concern
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324520904578553660440428142.html

Florida puts a limit on deficiency Judgments but what happens when the real creditor shows up? Banks Go after Homeowners Years after Foreclosure
http://www.allgov.com/news/top-stories/banks-go-after-homeowners-years-after-foreclosure-130623?news=850369

Conflict for the big accounting firms? They did the audits and certified the balance sheets of both the investment banking companies and the ratings companies. A bad report card would put them at risk: Another Conflicted Foreclosure Review: PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ally/ResCap
http://www.forbes.com/sites/francinemckenna/2013/06/25/another-conflicted-foreclosure-review-pricewaterhousecoopers-and-allyrescap/

Regulatory Looting, Promontory-Style: Botched Foreclosure Reviews Alone Generate More than Double Goldman’s Revenues per Employee
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/06/regulatory-looting-promontory-style-botched-foreclosure-reviews-alone-generate-more-than-double-goldmans-revenues-per-employees.html

Promontory Financial Group Paid More Than $900 Million for Independent Foreclosure Review
http://4closurefraud.org/2013/06/24/promontory-financial-group-paid-more-than-900-million-for-independent-foreclosure-review/

 

Follow the Money Trail: It’s the blueprint for your case

If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.
Editor’s Analysis and Comment: If you want to know where all the money went during the mortgage madness of the last decade and the probable duplication of that behavior with all forms of consumer debt, the first clues have been emerging. First and foremost I would suggest the so-called bull market reflecting an economic resurgence that appears to have no basis in reality. Putting hundred of billions of dollars into the stock market is an obvious place to store ill-gotten gains.
But there is also the question of liquidity which means the Wall Street bankers had to “park” their money somewhere into depository accounts. Some analysts have suggested that the bankers deposited money in places where the sheer volume of money deposited would give bankers strategic control over finance in those countries.
The consequences to American finance is fairly well known here. But most Americans have been somewhat aloof to the extreme problems suffered by Spain, Greece, Italy and Cyprus. Italy and Cyprus have turned to confiscating savings on a progressive basis.  This could be a “fee” imposed by those countries for giving aid and comfort to the pirates of Wall Street.
So far the only country to stick with the rule of law is Iceland where some of the worst problems emerged early — before bankers could solidify political support in that country, like they have done around the world. Iceland didn’t bailout bankers, they jailed them. Iceland didn’t adopt austerity to make the problems worse, it used all its resources to stimulate the economy.
And Iceland looked at the reality of a the need for a thriving middle class. So they reduced household debt and forced banks to take the hit — some 25% or more being sliced off of mortgages and other consumer debt. Iceland was not acting out of ideology, but rather practicality.
The result is that Iceland is the shining light on the hill that we thought was ours. Iceland has real growth in gross domestic product, decreasing unemployment to acceptable levels, and banks that despite the hit they took, are also prospering.
From my perspective, I look at the situation from the perspective of a former investment banker who was in on conversations decades ago where Wall Street titans played the idea of cornering the market on money. They succeeded. But Iceland has shown that the controls emanating from Wall Street in directing legislation, executive action and judicial decisions can be broken.
It is my opinion that part or all of trillions dollars in off balance sheet transactions that were allowed over the last 15 years represents money that was literally stolen from investors who bought what they thought were bonds issued by a legitimate entity that owned loans to consumers some of which secured in the form of residential mortgage loans.
Actual evidence from the ground shows that the money from investors was skimmed by Wall Street to the tune of around $2.6 trillion, which served as the baseline for a PONZI scheme in which Wall Street bankers claimed ownership of debt in which they were neither creditor nor lender in any sense of the word. While it is difficult to actually pin down the amount stolen from the fake securitization chain (in addition to the tier 2 yield spread premium) that brought down investors and borrowers alike, it is obvious that many of these banks also used invested money from managed funds as gambling money that paid off handsomely as they received 100 cents on the dollar on losses suffered by others.
The difference between the scheme used by Wall Street this time is that bankers not only used “other people’s money” —this time they had the hubris to steal or “borrow” the losses they caused — long enough to get the benefit of federal bailout, insurance and hedge products like credit default swaps. Only after the bankers received bailouts and insurance did they push the losses onto investors who were forced to accept non-performing loans long after the 90 day window allowed under the REMIC statutes.
And that is why attorneys defending Foreclosures and other claims for consumer debt, including student loan debt, must first focus on the actual footprints in the sand. The footprints are the actual monetary transactions where real money flowed from one party to another. Leading with the money trail in your allegations, discovery and proof keeps the focus on simple reality. By identifying the real transactions, parties, timing and subject moment lawyers can use the emerging story as the blueprint to measure against the fabricated origination and transfer documents that refer to non-existent transactions.
The problem I hear all too often from clients of practitioners is that the lawyer accepts the production of the note as absolute proof of the debt. Not so. (see below). If you will remember your first year in law school an enforceable contract must have offer, acceptance and consideration and it must not violate public policy. So a contract to kill someone is not enforceable.
Debt arises only if some transaction in which real money or value is exchanged. Without that, no amount of paperwork can make it real. The note is not the debt ( it is evidence of the debt which can be rebutted). The mortgage is not the note (it is a contract to enforce the note, if the note is valid). And the TILA disclosures required make sure that consumers know who they are dealing with. In fact TILA says that any pattern of conduct in which the real lender is hidden is “predatory per se”) and it has a name — table funded loan. This leads to treble damages, attorneys fees and costs recoverable by the borrower and counsel for the borrower.
And a contract to “repay” money is not enforceable if the money was never loaned. That is where “consideration” comes in. And a an alleged contract in the lender agreed to one set of terms (the mortgage bond) and the borrower agreed to another set of terms (the promissory note) is no contract at all because there was no offer an acceptance of the same terms.
And a contract or policy that is sure to fail and result in the borrower losing his life savings and all the money put in as payments, furniture is legally unconscionable and therefore against public policy. Thus most of the consumer debt over the last 20 years has fallen into these categories of unenforceable debt.
The problem has been the inability of consumers and their lawyers to present a clear picture of what happened. That picture starts with footprints in the sand — the actual events in which money actually exchanged hands, the answer to the identity of the parties to each of those transactions and the reason they did it, which would be the terms agreed on by both parties.
If you ask me for a $100 loan and I say sure just sign this note, what happens if I don’t give you the loan? And suppose you went somewhere else to get your loan since I reneged on the deal. Could I sue you on the note? Yes. Could I win the suit? Not if you denied you ever got the money from me. Can I use the real loan as evidence that you did get the money? Yes. Can I win the case relying on the loan from another party? No because the fact that you received a loan from someone else does not support the claim on the note, for which there was no consideration.
It is the latter point that the Courts are starting to grapple with. The assumption that the underlying transaction described in the note and mortgage was real, is rightfully coming under attack. The real transactions, unsupported by note or mortgage or disclosures required under the Truth in Lending Act, cannot be the square peg jammed into the round hole. The transaction described in the note, mortgage, transfers, and disclosures was never supported by any transaction in which money exchanged hands. And it was not properly disclosed or documented so that there could be a meeting of the minds for a binding contract.
KEEP THIS IN MIND: (DISCOVERY HINTS) The simple blueprint against which you cast your fact pattern, is that if the securitization scheme was real and not a PONZI scheme, the investors’ money would have gone into a trust account for the REMIC trust. The REMIC trust would have a record of the transaction wherein a deduction of money from that account funded your loan. And the payee on the note (and the secured party on the mortgage) would be the REMIC trust. There is no reason to have it any other way unless you are a thief trying to skim or steal money. If Wall Street had played it straight underwriting standards would have been maintained and when the day came that investors didn’t want to buy any more mortgage bonds, the financial world would not have been on the verge of extinction. Much of the losses to investors would have covered by the insurance and credit default swaps that the banks took even though they never had any loss or risk of loss. There never would have been any reason to use nominees like MERS or originators.
The entire scheme boils down to this: can you borrow the realities of a transaction in which you were not a party and treat it, legally in court, as your own? So far the courts have missed this question and the result has been an unequivocal and misguided “yes.” Relentless of pursuit of the truth and insistence on following the rule of law, will produce a very different result. And maybe America will use the shining example of Iceland as a model rather than letting bankers control our governmental processes.

Banking Chief Calls For 15% Looting of Italians’ Savings
http://www.infowars.com/banking-chief-calls-for-15-looting-of-italians-savings/

Ireland Joining Iceland for Mortgage Principal Corrections

Editor’s Note: It’s not final but it looks like Ireland is going to do pretty much the same thing that Iceland did, except this one is based upon the heart of the crisis — housing and bad mortgages, falsely presented to lenders and borrowers alike. The answer? Reduction in the balance due on mortgages that were falsely presented in the first place.

It is the obvious answer. Homeowners and lenders were BOTH fooled into believing that normal underwriting practices were at work. The originators even charged more for no-doc loans because they were taking a higher risk than the usual requirements of tax returns, confirmation of employment and income, and verification of the value of the property and the ability of the borrower to repay the loan.

The banks took the money from investors, promising to deposit those funds into a “trust” account for funding mortgages or acquiring mortgages within the prescribed period of time (90 days). The banks didn’t deposit the funds in any such account and instead commingled all the investor money to intentionally obscure the theft and the nature of the Ponzi scheme they were running.

The homeowner is said to be at fault for borrowing more money than they could afford to repay, but the bank sales machine expanded the offering of mortgages from 4-5 different types to over 450 different types of loans, along with assurances that the bank had reviewed the loan, and was satisfied that the loan could be repaid and that was because of rising prices in real estate fueled mostly by a flood of money and the boom in new house building where builders were only too happy to raise their prices as much as 20% per month, for appraisers to “use” in comparing property values. The truth is that the appraisers were under threat of either coming in with an appraisal at least over $20,000 more than the contract price, or they would never work again.

Yet somehow in the mind of policy makers and bankers (and the courts)  it was cheating when they gave those appraisals (indirectly) to investors but stupid on the part of borrowers who accepted the approvals. So the borrowers, who were cheated out of the deal they they were getting are stuck and the investors who are cheated out of the deal they thought they were getting, are getting settlements.

As Iceland has shown, the issue isn’t blame anymore. It is survival. And as Iceland as shown, the issue is whether the economy can be re-started and become robust once again. The answer is yes, as long as we turn a deaf ear to the bankers whose information and data is used by policy makers.

6 Years I ago I proposed that the answer to this problem was amnesty for everyone, with everyone taking a share of the loss. That still seems like a good idea. Iceland is putting bankers in jail and maybe that is where they belong. But I am more concerned with the health of our society, not the revenge against individual bankers.

Ireland Plans Bold Measures to Lift Housing

By PETER EAVIS, NY Times

DUBLIN – With its economy still reeling from the housing crash, Ireland is making a bold move to help tens of thousands of struggling homeowners.

The Irish government expects to pass a law this year that could encourage banks to substantially cut the amount that borrowers owe on their mortgages, a step that no major country has been willing to take on a broad scale.

The initiative, which would lower a borrower’s monthly payment, could prevent a tide of foreclosures, an uncertainty that has been hanging over the Irish housing market for years. If it works, the plan could provide a road map for other troubled countries.

Without the proposed law, Laura Crowley, a nurse who lives in a village 30 miles west of Dublin, figures she will lose her home. In 2007, Ms. Crowley and her husband bought a small home for the equivalent of $420,000. But they can no longer afford the $1,400 monthly payment. Her husband, a construction worker, is earning far less and her take-home pay has been cut by the country’s new austerity measures, which include new taxes. “This bill is the only light at the end of the tunnel for us,” she said.

Most countries that have suffered housing busts, including the United States, have made limited use of so-called mortgage write-downs, the process of forgiving a portion of the principal on the loan. The worry has been that some borrowers who can afford their mortgages will stop making payments to take advantage of a bailout. Banks have also been reluctant since they could face unexpected losses.

Ireland is different from the United States and most countries. During the financial crisis, Ireland bailed out the banks, and the government still has large ownership stakes in some of the biggest mortgage lenders. So taxpayers are already responsible for mortgage losses. In other countries, the burden of principal forgiveness would largely fall on privately owned banks.

But the debate is the same: whether to push lenders to take losses now, in hopes that things will get better faster, or wait for the housing market to heal on its own, which could cloud the economy for years to come.

Countries suffering from a housing hangover will most likely be watching Ireland closely to see how the law works. Spain, swamped with mortgage defaults, introduced a measure in March that allows for debt forgiveness, though under strict conditions.

In many ways, Ireland has to try something audacious. House prices are still 50 percent below their peak, compared with 30 percent in the United States. And more than half of Irish mortgages are underwater, meaning the house is worth less than the outstanding debt. While some of those borrowers can afford to keep making payments, more than a quarter of mortgage debt on first homes, roughly $39 billion, is in default or has been modified by lenders.

The housing market is now in a state of limbo as the government and the banks have made little effort to clean up the mortgage mess.

Unlike in the United States, Irish banks have foreclosed on very few borrowers. While Ireland’s leaders have considered it socially unacceptable for banks to seize large numbers of homes, they also feared the fiscal cost of foreclosures.

This approach creates doubt about the true level of bad mortgages at Irish banks. And borrowers, unsure of whether they will keep their homes, remain in a state of financial paralysis.

The new law aims to end this stalemate by overhauling Ireland’s consumer debt and bankruptcy laws.

While banks aren’t required to reduce the mortgage debt, the legislation gives them a powerful incentive to write down mortgages for troubled borrowers. Under the new rules, it will be less onerous to declare bankruptcy, making it easier for people to walk away from their homes altogether. As the threat rises, banks are more likely to reduce homeowners’ debt, rather than risk losing the monthly income and getting stuck with the property.

“For the banks, where there are losses, they have to be recognized,” said Alan Shatter, Ireland’s justice minister, who has sponsored the new law, called the Personal Insolvency Bill. “This legislation gives homeowners hope for their future.”

The legislation is intended, in part, to reach homeowners who are on the verge of running into trouble, as Geraldine Daly is.

A health care worker, Ms. Daly bought a home in 2009 in Belmayne, a new development in northern Dublin. Until last month, Ms. Daly said, she has been making her $1,200 payment. Then she fell behind after some unexpected expenses, including a car repair.

Ms. Daly estimates that her finances would become manageable if her monthly mortgage payments were cut to around $900. “Right now, I am a slave to this dog box.”

Critics contend the law could have unintended consequences.

One fear is that banks won’t have the money to absorb the potential losses on the mortgages. A big mystery is the level of defaults on so-called buy-to-let mortgages, loans that many Irish people took out to buy second homes to rent. In theory, the insolvency bill allows for write-offs on this type of mortgage, and analysts expect defaults on such loans to be higher than on first homes. Ireland’s central bank is expected to release the data soon.

To qualify, borrowers will have to prove that they are in a precarious financial position and cannot afford to pay. Analysts are concerned that the bill may actually be too restrictive and homeowners will continue to default. “There are so many layers that borrowers have to go through to get a write-down,” said Paul Joyce, senior policy researcher at Free Legal Advice Centers, a legal rights group that has supported moves to make Irish bankruptcy law more lenient. For instance, borrowers will most likely have to pay a big fee upfront to the person who handles their case.

John Chubb, a former construction worker who lives on a quiet cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Dublin, isn’t too worried about the process right now. He just wants to save his home.

Since having an operation for colon cancer in 2004, Mr. Chubb has lived primarily on government disability payments, and the bank has allowed him to pay only mortgage interest. But the lender is in the process of deciding whether to foreclose.

“I am expecting the word any day now,” he said. “I don’t know if I will be out on the front path before the bill passes.”

Lawyers cashing in on Class Action Lawsuits for Investors: What About Homeowners?

“I can’t predict the next scandal,” Mr. Berger said. “But I know that fraud is a growth industry, and so is greed.”

Editor’s Comment: Max W. Berger, partner of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, based in Manhattan has brought in over $1 Billion in damages for class action lawsuits filed ion behalf of investors. I’ve been predicting here that the amount of money that a lawyer can make correcting the malfeasance of the megabanks and servicers is staggering — far beyond profitable areas like personal injury and medical malpractice.

They are producing settlements rather than verdicts and judgments simply because the banks don’t really have a credible defense to what they did. They lied, cheated and stole. By diverting money from the securitization scheme that they said they were following and diverting the documentation away from the investors, as well as diverting huge payoffs and profits away from investors, the banks have screwed the investors (and all the pensioners and retirement account holders), screwed the taxpayers with creating false premises for bailouts, and screwed homeowners with false claims for foreclosures.

Is it time yet for lawyers to realize that even more money is to be made representing homeowners? The obstacles in the law create problems for certification of class actions but the possibilities remain. Any foreclosure pattern that REQUIRED the use of false documentation that was forged by unsophisticated clerks at the direction of the people who were claiming plausible deniability MUST be the target of such lawsuits and the answer to the problem of underwater mortgages, strategic defaults which are on the rise, and the limp economic recovery caused in large measure by the housing crash that cannot recover until the foreclosure scheme is stopped.

Lawyers for homeowners should be pouring through the discovery documents and pleading of the cases filed for investors, There they will find a treasure trove of information that drove the banks into offering billions in settlements of actions brought by civil action lawyers as well as government agencies. But the real question is why are the big name class action lawyers ignoring the horrendous damage to homeowners?

These lawyers have the resources and the knowledge that has been disclosed here on this blog and hundreds of other articles, mainstream news stories and bloggers across the country.

Iceland understood the problem and reduced household debt, bringing itself out from an actual economic depression into the fastest growth of western nations. Ireland is now about to require reductions in principal due to prevent the wave of foreclosures that has been hanging over that market as well, leading the way for other European countries to follow suit.

Each day thousands of lives are ruined by the false claims in foreclosures that dominate the “foreclosure industry” comprised of participants in a securitization chain to nowhere — the money wasn’t sent through that channel, the documents were diverted from that channel leaving the investors with nothing. Shareholders in the banks were misled and kept shares of the mega banks in their portfolios. Managed funds for pensions and retirement funds, have lost as much as 50% of their value endangering current pension benefits (a fact that will be revealed after the elections).

Why do I need to convince lawyers to make more money and do some good for society into action on behalf of homeowners when on the same facts, lawyers for the investors are making money hand over fist?

Business is booming for lawyers who care about investors, but not so much for lawyers representing the homeowners who were screwed worse than the investors. The homeowners in most cases have lost everything and more.

Their own pension benefits probably come from a managed funds that bought into the bogus mortgage bonds. Their pension benefits are in danger of being cut even while they lose their home and lifestyles from tricky defective mortgages that not even Alan Greenspan understood much less the unsophisticated home-buyer or homeowner refinancing homes that were in many cases in the family for generations.

Why is this so difficult for the lawyers and the judiciary to understand? Whose name would you put on the note and mortgage if you were lending money? Why wasn’t the name of the actual lender disclosed, much less shown as payee or mortgagee? If the REMIC trusts were real, no originator would have been allowed to place their name on the closing documents.

The money DID come from investors but did NOT come from the REMIC trusts that are alleged. The mortgage liens were not perfected and the underwriting process upon which the bank settlements with investors were based, was completely scuttled, especially where it came to intentionally inflated values of the property.

So where are the lawyers to take advantage of this huge opportunity where so much of the work has already been done for them by government agencies and class action lawyers for investors?

Investors’ Billion-Dollar Fraud Fighter
By PETER LATTMAN, NY Times

A few days after securing the largest shareholder recovery arising from the financial crisis – $2.43 billion from Bank of America – the plaintiffs’ lawyer Max W. Berger was not taking a victory lap.

“It makes me sad that in all of these scandals, no matter how good a job we do of getting results and inflicting pain, the government doesn’t seem to follow suit, and nobody learns, and it’s business as usual,” he said in an interview.

After a pregnant pause, Mr. Berger broke into a sly smile. He had another thought: “It gives us a lot of business, but it still makes me sad.”

With last month’s settlement with Bank of America, which resolved claims that the bank had misled shareholders about its acquisition of an ailing Merrill Lynch, Mr. Berger, 66, has now been responsible for six securities class-action settlements of more than $1 billion. His firm, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, based in Manhattan, has represented investors in five of the 10 largest securities-fraud recoveries. So far, it has recovered $4.5 billion for investors in cases connected to the subprime mortgage collapse.

“He is unquestionably one the giants of the plaintiffs’ bar,” said Brad S. Karp, the managing partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, who represented Bank of America and has faced off against Mr. Berger in several other cases. “And what sets Max apart, beyond his talents as a lawyer, is that he’s a mensch, a person of real humility and integrity.”

There was a time, not too long ago, when the lions of the securities class-action bar were described in far less flattering terms. For decades, Melvyn I. Weiss and William S. Lerach, a pair of brash, crafty plaintiffs’ lawyers, dominated this lucrative pocket of the legal industry. Their firm, Milberg Weiss, revolutionized shareholder class-action suits by filing streams of cases against corporations, accusing them of accounting fraud. Critics called their aggressive tactics legalized blackmail. Congress passed laws aimed at reining in their practices.

The careers of Mr. Weiss and Mr. Lerach ended in disgrace in 2006, when their firm was indicted on charges that it had funneled illegal kickbacks to clients to induce them to sue. Mr. Weiss, Mr. Lerach and two other Milberg Weiss partners ultimately served prison terms. (It did not help the standing of the plaintiffs’ bar that at about the same time, Richard F. Scruggs, the Mississippi class-action lawyer, was imprisoned for trying to bribe a judge.)

“To be tarred by those brushes was very upsetting, but it was even worse to have everyone presume that we operated in the same way,” Mr. Berger said. “After they were charged, I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘Well, isn’t that what all of you do?’ ”

Yet a half-decade after Milberg’s downfall, there has been a shift in the public image and reputation of the securities class-action bar. The Bank of America settlement, which is still subject to judicial approval, comes at a moment when plaintiffs’ lawyers are being praised for extracting stiff penalties from banks related to their actions during the housing boom and the subsequent economic collapse. At the same time, resource-constrained government regulators have been criticized for not being tough enough.

In several cases, private plaintiffs have settled lawsuits for amounts far greater than the government received in similar actions. Bank of America, for instance, paid the Securities and Exchange Commission just $150 million to settle the commission’s lawsuit connected to the Merrill acquisition. Judge Jed S. Rakoff reluctantly approved the S.E.C. settlement, calling it “inadequate and misguided” and the dollar amount “paltry.”

“The securities class-action bar has come under relentless assault over the years,” said J. Robert Brown Jr., a corporate law professor at the University of Denver. “Yet these suits, especially the ones tied to the financial crisis, actually have had real value in the capital markets because companies need to know that there is a heavy price to pay for their misconduct.”

There are still detractors who scoff at that notion. These critics view securities class-action lawyers as bounty hunters who file nuisance lawsuits against deep-pocketed targets and then force them to settle rather than engage in costly litigation. They argue that the settlements have little deterrent effect because the payments almost always come from the corporations, not the executives and directors running the companies.

And questions have arisen over plaintiffs’ lawyers’ campaign contributions to local politicians who control the selection of legal counsel for shareholder lawsuits filed by public pension funds.

But even the most vocal opponents of securities-fraud class actions acknowledge that a variety of factors, including a combination of federal legislation and court rulings, have curbed abuses in the system. Many of the weakest cases are now thrown out earlier, and large institutional shareholders like state pension funds and insurance companies have taken greater control of the lawsuits.

They are also reining in the lawyers’ fees. In the past, plaintiffs’ lawyers received 20 percent to one-third of the settlement amount. Today the average fee award as a percentage of the recovery is much lower. In Bank of America, for example, Bernstein Litowitz and two other firms – Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check and Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer – are expected to ask for about $150 million, or 6 percent of the settlement.

“Things have definitely improved,” said Theodore H. Frank, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a longtime critic of abusive class actions. “Is it perfect? No. Is it better? Yes.”

Legal experts say the class actions filed after the financial crisis highlight the improvements. The lawsuits were far more risky and complex than the template “strike suits” that plaintiffs’ firms once churned out every time a company’s share price plummeted. And unlike large corporate scandals like Enron or WorldCom, there were no balance-sheet restatements or criminal convictions to use as evidence.

“We never viewed these cases as easy but felt we needed to be in them in a big way, so we really doubled down,” Mr. Berger said.

Bernstein Litowitz’s recent settlements read like a who’s who of the “too big to fail” era. Wachovia and its auditor paid its bondholders $627 million to resolve charges related to its mortgage holdings. Merrill Lynch settled claims that it had misled buyers of mortgage products for $315 million. Lehman Brothers’ underwriters paid $426 million to end a lawsuit over its stock sales. Washington Mutual’s underwriters and insurers paid $205 million to investors in the now-collapsed bank.

The big mortgage-related settlements are expected to add up to hundreds of millions in fees for Bernstein Litowitz, a 52-lawyer firm. Mr. Berger and his three founding partners started the firm in 1983 after splitting off from Kreindler & Kreindler, a plaintiffs’ firm best known for its aviation-disaster litigation.

The Bank of America settlement is a boon for the firm, ending nearly four years of bruising litigation and coming less than a month before it was set for trial. The lawsuit accused Bank of America of concealing from its shareholders, who were voting on the Merrill acquisition, the billions of dollars in mounting losses at Merrill, as well as billions in bonuses being paid out to Merrill executives.

Bernstein Litowitz and two other firms represented five plaintiffs: two Ohio pension funds, a Texas pension fund and two European pensions. Working with Mr. Berger on the case were his partners Mark Lebovitch, Hannah Ross and Steven B. Singer.

“This case will now serve as Exhibit A for corporate directors tempted to withhold information from shareholders,” Mr. Berger said. “The message isn’t complicated: Just tell the truth.”

New matters, meanwhile, are coming in. Bernstein Litowitz was appointed lead plaintiffs’ counsel in a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase related to the bank’s multibillion-dollar trading loss out of a unit in London. And it is involved in the litigation against Facebook and Morgan Stanley over the social networking company’s botched initial public offering of stock.

Mr. Berger said finding cases had rarely been a problem.

“I can’t predict the next scandal,” Mr. Berger said. “But I know that fraud is a growth industry, and so is greed.”

Fixing the Housing Market So It’s Safe to Buy or Hold

Reality in Iceland: prosecution and letting the chips fall to the table
August 27, 2012. Neil F Garfield. Mainstream media and in particular Krugman and Ritholz have echoes what Simon Johnson and I have been saying for years. It’s not a question of theory or ideology. It’s a question of reality.
Citizens of Iceland were not in the least bit interested whether the “conservatives” or the “liberals” had compelling ideological arguments. They wanted jobs, economic stability, and decent prospects and opportunities. Citizens of Iceland were not interested in the concept of change or even change in government.
They wanted their society fixed, after being used and thrown under the bus by Wall Street using Icelandic banks as a conduit for international exchange of derivatives that turned out to be worthless. The Banks tried throwing Iceland under the bus, but Icelanders defied the power and wealth of the world’s largest banks and executed simple policies that followed the advanced thinking and analysts all over the world, past, present and future.
Bill Clinton was asked by many how he managed to take an ailing economy and turn it into a booming source of innovation with giant government surpluses. His answer was “arithmetic.” When I was a security analyst and investment banker on Wall Street the primary theme was that before investment, underwriting, or performing any act or making any decisions we had to start at the beginning — the fundamentals. Money may be hard to define but it is easy to measure.
At the end of the day if you taken more real money than you have spent, then you have more money at the end of the month. If some thief steals from you, your wealth drops. If someone claims to own your property and doesn’t own it, your wealth remains unchanged — but Wall Street, bucking the obvious proof in Iceland, says otherwise.
Wall Street says they can “borrow” the identity of homeowners and use it to create the equivalent of bank notes that can be accepted as cash equivalents as long as they dress it up with triple A ratings, and insurance companies that cannot pay for the loss and wouldn’t even if they could because the offer to buy the credit default swap, the insurance and other hedge products were based upon blatantly false premises.
Iceland simply did arithmetic and they continue to do arithmetic. They are reducing household debt, letting creditors suffer the risk of loss that was part of their contracts but now they don’t like their contracts. In Iceland too, the Banks demanded bailout money to save the financial system. But Icelanders rejected that on both legal and moral grounds.
They were not going to reward the perpetrators of fraud tooth further detriment of their victims, they would prosecute them and punish them for breaking the key laws and premises of a stable society — accountability to and for the truth.
They were not going to further burden the victims of the crimes with taxes to reward the perpetrators and their counterparts, they were going to provide as much restitution of wealth as possible and necessary to stabilize an economy that was crashing.
The financial system did not crash and burn as Wall Street had sternly predicted to the Bush and Obama administrations in the U.S. With more than 7,000 smaller banks ready and waiting pick up the pieces. They did not debase their currency and their prospects by saddling future generations with the mistakes of remote greedy bankers. They took the money that existed and disregarded the fake money, the ” cash equivalents” created all over the world allowing the shadow banning system to collapse under it’s own worthless weight. Nothing bad happened.
What did happen is that Iceland now enjoys normal economic growth, sharply declining unemployment and underemployment and does not consider trading paper whose value is based upon false transactions to be part of a their GDP. Produce real goods and services while in the U.S. And other “advanced ” superpowers they have turned themselves into paper tigers. While financial services went from 16% of U.S. GDP before this mess, it now counts for half. Arithmetic: if those shadow banking transactions are worthless then our real GDP is 34% less than what we are reporting.
In Europe where they have their heads partially in our sand, they are trying to sit on two chairs with one ass. They too understand that nothing trumps reality but the people who run government here and abroad are simply making far too much money pretending that shadow money is real money. The real value of our stock indexes is around 7500 for DJIA.
The facts are that housing is still in the dumps even if some reports show “signs of life.” to allow Foreclosures to proceed when the creditor had an undocumented c,aim without any real mortgage lien is absurd, bit it is done everyday. It isn’t a matter of defective documents, it is a matter of no documents, while the banks stole the identities of the pensions funds and homeowners for their own personal Profit,  and buried the losses until they were done trading worthless paper. THEN they gave the “ownership” of the worthless paper and the loss to the investment funds that thought they had purchased them years ago under rules that were never followed by Wall Street.
The foreclosures must end because they are illegally based upon a chain of paper without any money transactions (consideration). The “completed” Foreclosures should be disallowed because the transactions on which they were based were void for lack of consideration wherein the signature of the homeowner was procured by fraudulent premises and promises.
The real money transactions should be documented and the real loan status should be disclosed so that homeowners and investors can come to reasonable settlements and modifications without regard to the consequences to Banks whose continuing fraud is causing the U. S. And Europe without applying basic emergency procedures to stop the bleeding.
The loans are not secured by perfected liens and the principal loan origination was outright theft from investor-lenders and homeowners. But they could be secured and people could pay for the real market value of the deal they were tricked into, if we simply go back and do the arithmetic — and play fair.

Iceland Did It Right … And Everyone Else Is Doing It Wrong
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/08/iceland-did-it-right-and-everyone-else-is-doing-it-wrong/

British Government Getting Tough on Bankers

The Barclay Libor rigging scandal is apparently the straw that broke the Camel’s back in Great Britain. With various investigations of their co-conspirators in artificially creating moments in interest rates, the scam is unraveling. And in the balance, lies between $500 and $600 TRILLION dollars. How could that much money be effected when all the money in the world amounts to less than $70 Trillion? What the hell IS money anyway?

All these things are becoming less exotic and increasingly the subject of investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing in every place but the United States, where at this point in the savings and loan scandal of the 1980’s more than 800 people were already in jail. The British authorities are leading the way in Europe taking their cue from Iceland of all places, where prosecution of bankers has become the nation’s goal — bringing justice to the marketplace and bringing back certainty that those who play with the free Markets will be punished.

Iceland’s surge back to prosperity has been painful but they did it it because they forced the banks to accept “debt forgiveness” which is to say they merely forced the banks to admit that the debtors had been placed so far in debt with no assets or income to pay for the debt that it was
NOT going to get repaid anyway. That meant some of the assets on the balance sheets of the three biggest banks were worthless. Three banks failed and everyone held their breadth. Nothing bad happened. In fact the rest of the banking sector is prospering along with the rest of the Iceland economy.

In the U.S. Regulators and prosecutors seem to remain completely invested in the myth that bringing the banks and bankers to justice will bring down the entire financial system. It isn’t so and we know that because wherever the governments have cracked down on the financial services industry the economy got better — Iceland being only the latest example.

Back to the question: how could some reptilian behavior create more money than government allows and why is the government allowing it anyway? How could all the currency in the world be $70 trillion and the amount of money effected by the Barclay manipulation of Libor be ten times that amount, which is to to say ten times all the money the world? The answer is that it can’t. And the longer we pretend that it can, the longer and deeper will be the recession. The more we pretend that those exotic securities sitting in bank balance sheets are actually worth all that money, the longer we prolong the agony of the society that allows banks to exist. Those banks relying on fake assets should fail. It is that simple.

See Gretchen Morgenson’s article in the Sunday business section of the New York Times for a clear explanation of right and wrong and how the British are trying to get it right.

Bankers Scared S–tless by Iceland

Highly placed sources in high positions inform me that articles about Iceland are now starting to bother the arrogant banksters who started this mess. One such article is by Sarah Lyall in Sunday’s New York Times.

In a world drowning in fake debt, criminal behavior, and unnecessary Foreclosures, the one country standing out from the pack is Iceland with an economic growth rate of 2.8%, unemployment dropping like a stone, and new businesses opening quickly with loans underwritten by banks who were forced into debt forgiveness by the government.

Bankers in Iceland are being prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced for their crimes against the society that allowed them to be bankers. Not everything is perfect, but with business growing, employment growing, and a resilient determined population, Iceland is paying off it’s debts from the financial crisis and is able to easily borrow money in the open markets.

Government sources and economists say the reason could not be more obvious — forgiveness of debt, strengthening the already prodigious social safety net, and good data and information that turns out to be true and not filtered through the rose colored glasses that the bank PR machine is grinding out.

The application here and elsewhere is just plain obvious and notwithstanding proven — hold the banks and bankers accountable for their behavior, let them fail and even in Iceland where there were not a lot of banks (as opposed to the 7,000 banks and credit unions here that can easily pick up the pieces), the financial system not only survived, it prospered.

The difference between the banks in Iceland and the banks elsewhere (especially the U.S.) is that the banks, being creatures and inventions of the societies that created and allowed them to function, were managed and brought under control by government acting for the society and not for the banks.

Those seeking less government control are merely using it as a rallying cry to lure people into voting against themselves. We need fireman, policeman, teachers etc. And we need police on Wall Street in particular.

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