The Logic of Wall Street “Securitization:” The transaction that never existed

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The logic of Wall Street schemes is simple: Create the trusts but don’t use them. Lie to everyone and assure everyone that Trusts were used to “securitize” loans. The strategy is so successful and the lie is so big and has been going on for so long, that most people believe it.

You see it in the decisions of the appellate courts who render opinions like the recent 3rd district in California which expresses the premise that the borrower was loaned money by the originator. Once you start with THAT premise, the outcome is no surprise. But start with reverse premise — that the borrower was NOT loaned money BY THE ORIGINATOR and you end up with a very different result.

We could assume that Wall Street is reckless in lending money. They can afford to be reckless because they are using investor money. And, so the story goes, the boys on Wall Street got a little wild with loans that they would never have approved for themselves.

Without risk of any loss, Wall Street investment banks make money regardless of whether the loan succeeds or goes into default.

But Wall Street is not content with earning fees. The basic credo is a question: “How can we make YOUR money OUR money.” And they have successfully devised and followed that goal for many years. As one insider told me in an interview that must remain anonymous, “It is like a magic trick. You create a trust and everyone is looking at the trust and everyone is looking at transactions affecting the trust, when in fact all the action is occurring off record, off the books and away from scrutiny by investors, trustees, rating agencies, insurers, borrowers, and of course, the courts.” 

So the question becomes “what happens to investor money after it is received by the investment bank?” If the money passes from the bank account of the managed fund (pension) fund to the bank account of the investment bank that sold bonds issued by a Trust then the Trust would receive the money. It didn’t.

The Trust would then issue funds for the origination or acquisition of loans. In return it would get the loan documents and they would be placed with the Depositor or Depository — pretty much the way ordinary loans are done. It didn’t. Instead we had millions of loan documents lost or destroyed and then re-created for litigation purposes. Why would an entire industry have engaged in that behavior? Was it really a “volume” problem where there was too much paper or was it something more sinister?

The problem is that the investment bank that acts as broker in selling the bonds is in control of the loans and investments of the Trusts. Since the fees of the investment bank are based on the existence of transactions in which the Trust issues money in exchange for investment certificates, the Wall Street bank is incentivized to make that Trust money move regardless of the quality of the investment. And since the Trust has no say in the actual underwriting decision to originate or acquire the loan, the investment bank is the only one in charge. That leaves the fox guarding the hen house.

But that doesn’t satisfy Wall Street either. They realized that they can create “proprietary profits” for the investment banks by creating a yield spread premium. A yield spread premium is the difference in value between two different loans to the same party for the same transaction — one is the honest one and the other is fictitious.

At closing the borrower is steered into the fictitious one which is far more risky and expensive than the one the borrower is actually qualified to receive.

At the investor level the “trust” is ordered to take loans that are far less valuable than they appear. This means that the Trust buys the investment bonds or shares that the investment bank has created with nobody checking the quality or ownership of the investment. The Pooling and Servicing Agreement contains provisions that effectively bars the Trustee or the investors from knowing or even inquiring about these transactions. Look at any PSA and you will see it.

The bottom line is that the worse the loan terms for the borrower and the more likely it is that the loan will fail, the lower the value of the loan. But if it is sold as though it was an ordinary conventional loan at 5%, then the price, charged for a crappy loan is much higher than its true value. Same scenario as the inflated appraisals of real property and homes. 

So the investment bank inserts itself as the Seller of the loan to the trust. At their proprietary trading desk the investment bank sells its ownership interest in the loan to the trust for the higher “value” because the investment bank is making the decisions on what loans the trust will buy. Meanwhile they have created loans that are worth far less and even have principal due on the “notes” that is far less than what the trust is forced to “pay.”

Checking with informed sources, it is evident that those proprietary transactions were fictitious and allowed the investment banks to report huge “profits” while everyone else was losing their shirts trading bonds, equities and anything else. The transaction at the proprietary trading desk of the investment bank was fictitious because the trust did not issue any payment to the investment bank, who never formally owned the loan in the first place.

You don’t see investment banks anywhere in the chain of title whether you review public records or even MERS. So you have the investment bank selling a loan they don’t own to a trust that never paid for it. The entire transaction is recorded but does not exist.

In the case of a 15% $300,000 loan to a “borrower”, it is “SOLD” as a 5% conventional loan giving the investment bank a reason to declare that it made a profit on a “proprietary trade.” How much profit? Figure it out — on the back of a napkin you can see how the investment banks “sold” the $300,000 loan but “received” $900,000 from the Trust leaving the investors with an instant $600,000 loss and the probability of losing the rest of the $300,000 as well. This is exactly opposite to the provisions of the Prospectus and PSA.

Upon examination, my sources tell me, the money to cover that declared “trading” profit does exist at the investment bank. That is because the investment bank took the money from investors, never funded the trust, and pocketed the $600,000 in advance of the “proprietary trade, which they could cause to be recorded and reported at any time, since the investment bank was in total control.

Enter moral hazard.

The only incentive that the investment bank to stay honest is to report good results so the managed funds buy more bonds. But that does not protect investors. The investment bank creates a classic PONZI scheme in which it uses investor money to make the monthly payments on the bonds or shares and reports that “all is well.” The report disclaims reliability, credibility and authenticity. Wells Fargo has an especially strong disclaimer on the distribution report to investors. The disclaimers were ignored as “boiler plate” by fund managers who made the investment on behalf of the their pensioners or mutual fund shareholders.

All the fund managers needed to know was that they were getting paid — but they did not realize that a significant part of the payment came from their own investment dollars advanced to the investment bank, as broker for the purchase of trust bonds or shares.

So the investment bank makes much less money on good investments for the trust than on really bad investments. In fact they have the  incentive to make certain the loan fails. Not only do they get the yield spread premium described above, the investment bank, is trading on inside information in which only the investment bank knows the truth. It places bets against the viability of the loan and bets further against the value of the mortgage bonds, and buys contracts for insurance, betting that the value of the bond will fall in a “credit event” without the necessity of an actual default.

SO IF THE INVESTMENT BANK DID NOT GIVE THE TRUST THE MONEY FROM INVESTORS, WHERE DID THE INVESTORS’ MONEY GO?

That is the trillion dollar question. And THIS is where the Courts have it completely wrong. Either we are a nation of laws or a nation governed by the financial industry. The banks bet on themselves, and so far, they were right to do so.

The money given to the investment banks was spread out over a long list of intermediaries owned or controlled by the investment bank. AND then SOME of it was spread out funding loans to borrowers. But the investment bank obviously could not name itself on the note and mortgage. That would have revealed that the tax advantages of a REMIC trust were nonexistent because the trust was not involved in the transaction.

So an elaborate, complicated, circuitous route was chosen for the “approval” of loans for origination or acquisition. First you have a nominee, which is often MERS plus a “lender” who was also a nominee even though they were called lender. The “lender” was subject to an assignment and assumption agreement that prohibited the “lender” from exercising any control over the closing on the loan that was being “originated.” In short, they were being paid to pretend to be a lender — hence the term pretender lender. 

The closing agent, whose fee depends upon actually closing, and the mortgage broker, whose fee depends upon actually closing, and the title company, whose fee depends upon the actual closing, have no interest in protecting the borrower from what is about to transpire.

The closing agent gets money from any one of a variety of sources OTHER THAN THE “LENDER.” The closing agent applies those funds to the closing as though the “Lender” made the loan. As stated by one mortgage document specialist for a large “originator”, “We knew that table funded loans were predatory and illegal, but we didn’t take that seriously. And the borrowers didn’t know who the lender was — that was the point. We used table funded loans to conceal the actual lender.”

Those funds came from the investors, although the money did not come through the trust. It came from the investment bank which was acting in the capacity, as they tell it, as a depository bank — which is why the Federal government allowed them to become commercial banks able to act as depositories. And every effort was made to prevent any evidence as to whose money was actually involved in the loan. Since it was the investor money that was used to originate or acquire the loan, it should have been the investors who were named as owner of the loan and recorded as such in the public records.

If you look at the PSA, it requires funding of the trust, of course. But it also requires that its acquisition of loans contain all the elements of a holder in due course, thus barring any claims from borrowers about irregularities at the closing, violations of state and federal law, etc. In summary the only defenses a borrower could raise against a holder in due course is that they paid or that they never signed the note. So a person who pays money in good faith without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses is pretty well protected. In litigation with borrowers, borrowers would be told they must sue the intermediaries that caused the problems with their loans.

The fact that no foreclosure of a loan subject to “claims of securitization” alleges HDC (holder in due course) status is very substantial corroboration that the Trust did not pay for the loan in good faith without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses.

The banks have been betting on a lot of things and winning every bet. In court they are betting that they will be treated as holders in due course and not as simply holders either with or without any right to enforce where they might be required to prove the actual loan of money from the originator, or the payment of money for an assignment and endorsement. And THAT is why the appellate court is assuming that the loan actually occurred — you, know, the loan that is underlying the execution of the note and mortgage, because the borrower didn’t know the truth.

The factual problem is that the presumptions and assumptions relied upon by the courts are in direct conflict with the real facts. The legal problem is that starting with the original loan, many cases, and always with the assignment of loan, is that somewhere in the chain (and probably at more than one point in the “chain”) there is no underlying transaction for the paper upon which the bankers rely in foreclosure.

Some OTHER transaction occurred, which is why the note is evidence of a loan that does not exist between the “lender” and the “borrower” and why the assignment is evidence of a transaction that does not exist between the assignor and assignee. The mistake being made is basic law: the courts are confusing “evidence” of a transaction with the transaction itself. In so doing they are escalating the status of the forecloser from a mere holder to a holder in due course without any actual claim or allegation of HDC status. Once that is done, the borrower is doomed.

The doom should fall on the investment bank and all the intermediaries that participated in this scheme. They left the investors with no coverage — the investors money was used in ways that were expressly prohibited by the offering, the PSA, and even the rules governing investments by stable managed funds whose risk is required to be extremely low in any investment. The investors are the involuntary lenders with no note and no mortgage.

The good news is that nearly all borrowers would be happy to execute a note and mortgage to investors who actually funded their loan or even a trust that was identified by the investors to represent them. The terms would be based upon current economic reality and would thus mitigate the damages to both the investor lenders and the borrowers. The balance, as we have already seen, lies in lawsuits for damages against the investment banks and their intermediaries demanding refunds, damages and even punitive damages. Those lawsuits are being brought by investors, borrowers, insurers, and guarantors and in some cases by counterparties to credit default swaps.

Without the execution of a real note and real mortgage, the foreclosures are fatally defective. So the bad news is that as long as the courts assume and then presume and then enter judgment for the foreclosing party, the Judge is inadvertently sealing a greater loss applied against the investor lender, removing the tax advantages of a REMIC trust, and creating another bar to liability and accountability of the investment bank who effectively has been lying and cheating its way through the system — using legal “presumptions” that are directly contrary to the facts.

Is Donald Duck Your Lender?

 

I was asked a question a few days ago that runs to the heart of the problem for the banks in enforcing false claims for foreclosure and false claims of losses that should really allocated to the investors so that the investor would get the benefits of those loss mitigation payments. This is the guts of the complaints by insurers, investors, guarantors et al against the investment banks — that there was fraud, not breach of contract, because the investment bank never intended to follow the plan of securitization set forth in the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreement. The question asked of me only reached the issue of whether borrowers could claim credit for third party payments to the creditor. But the answer, as you will see, branches much further out than the scope of the question.

If you look at Steinberger in Arizona and recent case decisions in other jurisdictions you will see that if third party payments are received by the creditor, they must be taken into account — meaning the account receivable on their books is reduced by the amount of the payment received. If the account receivable is reduced then it is axiomatic that the account payable from the borrower is correspondingly reduced. Each debt must be taken on its own terms. So if the reduction was caused by a payment from a third party, it is possible that the third party might have a claim against the borrower for having made the payment — but that doesn’t change the fact that the payment was made and received and that the debt to the trust or trust beneficiaries has been reduced or even eliminated.

The Court rejected the argument that the borrower was not an intended third party beneficiary in favor of finding that the creditor could only be paid once on the debt. I am finding that most trial judges agree that if loss-sharing payments were made, including servicer advances (which actually come from the broker dealer to cover up the poor condition of the portfolio), the account is reduced as to that creditor. The court further went on to agree that the “servicer” or whoever made the payment might have an action for unjust enrichment against the borrower — but that is a not a cause of action that is part of the foreclosure or the mortgage. The payment, whether considered volunteer or otherwise, is credited to the account receivable of the creditor and the borrower’s liability is corresponding reduced. In the case of servicer payments, if the creditor’s account is showing the account current because it received the payment that was due, then the creditor cannot claim a default.

A new “loan” is created when a volunteer or contractual payment is received by the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries. This loan arises by operation of law because it is presumed that the payment was not a gift. Thus the party who made that payment probably has a cause of action against the borrower for unjust enrichment, or perhaps contribution, but that claim is decidedly unsecured by a mortgage or deed of trust.

You have to think about the whole default thing the way the actual events played out. The creditor is the trust or the group of trust beneficiaries. They are owed payments as per the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreements. If those payments are current there is no default on the books of creditor. If the balance has been reduced by loss- sharing or insurance payment, the balance due and the accrued interest are correspondingly reduced. And THAT means the notice of default and notice of sale and acceleration are all wrong in terms of the figures they are using. The insurmountable problem that is slowly being recognized by the courts is that the default, from the perspective of the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries is a default under a contract between the trust beneficiaries and the trust.

This is the essential legal problem that the broker dealers (investment banks) caused when they interposed themselves as owners instead of what they were supposed to be — intermediaries, depositories, and agents of the investors (trust beneficiaries). The default of the borrower is irrelevant to whether the trust beneficiaries have suffered a loss due to default in payment from the trust. The borrower never promised that he or she or they would make payment to the trust or the trust beneficiaries — and that is the fundamental flaw in the actual mortgage process that prevailed for more than a dozen years. There would be no flaw if the investment banks had not committed fraud and instead of protecting investors, they diverted the money, ownership of the note and ownership of the mortgage or deed of trust to their own controlled vehicles. If the plan had been followed, the trusts and trust beneficiaries would have direct rights to collect from borrowers and foreclose on their property.

If the investment banks had not intended to divert the money, income, notes and mortgages or deeds of trust from the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries, then there would have no allegations of fraud from the investors, insurers and government guarantee agencies.

If the investment banks had done what was represented in the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreements, then the borrower would have known that the loan was being originated for or on behalf of the trust or beneficiaries and so would the rest of the world have known that. The note and mortgage would have shown, at origination, that the loan was payable to the trust and the mortgage or deed of trust was for the benefit of the trust or trust beneficiaries, as required by TILA and all the compensation earned by people associated with the origination of the loan would have had to have been disclosed (or returned to the borrower for failure to disclose). That would have connected the source of the loan — the trust or trust beneficiaries — to the receipt of the funds (the homeowner borrowers).

Instead, the investment banks hit on a nominee strawman plan where the disclosures were not made and where they could claim that (1) the investment bank was the owner of the debt and (2) the note and mortgage or deed of trust were executed for the benefit of a nominee strawman for the investment bank, who then claimed an insurable interest as owner of the debt. As owner of the debt, the investment banks received loss sharing payments from the FDIC. As agents for the investors those payments should have been applied to the balance owed the investors with a corresponding reduction in the balance due from the borrower —- if the payments were actually made and received and were not hypothetical or speculative. The investment banks did the same thing with the bonds, collecting payments from insurers, counterparties to credit default swaps, and guarantees from government sponsored entities.

When I say nominee or strawman I do not merely mean MERS which would have been entirely unnecessary unless the investment banks had intended to defraud the investors. What I am saying is that even the “lender” for whom MERS was the “nominee” falls into the same trapdoor. That lender was also merely a nominee which means that, as I said 7 years ago, they might just as well have made out the note and mortgage to Donald Duck, a fictitious character.

Since no actual lender was named in the note and mortgage and the terms of repayment were actually far different than what was stated on the borrower’s promissory note (i.e., the terms of the mortgage bond were the ONLY terms applicable to the plan of repayment to the creditor investors), the loan contract (or quasi loan contract, depending upon which jurisdiction you are in) was never completed. Hence the mortgage and note should never have been accepted into the file by the closing agent, much less recorded.

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JP Morgan Corners Gold Market — where did they get the money?

Zerohedge.com notes that JP Morgan has cornered the market in gold derivatives. They ask how the CFTC, who supposedly regulates the commodities markets could have let this happen. I ask some deeper questions. If JPM has cornered the market on those derivatives, is this a reflection that they, perhaps in combination with others, have cornered the market on actual gold reserves? Zerohedge.com leaves this question open.

I suggest that this position in derivatives (private contracts that circumvent the actual futures market) is merely a reflection of a much larger position — the actual ownership or right to own gold reserves that could total more than a trillion dollars in gold. And the further question is that if JPM has actually purchased gold or rights to own gold, where did the money come from? And the same question could be asked about other commodities like tin, aluminum and copper where Chase and Goldman Sachs have already been fined for manipulating market prices.

This is the first news corroborating what I have previously reported — that trillions of dollars have been diverted from investors and stolen from homeowners by the major banks, parked off shore, and then laundered through investments in natural resources including precious metals. This diversion occurred as an integral part of the mortgage madness and meltdown. It was intentional and knowing behavior — not bad judgment. It was bad because of what happened to anyone who wasn’t an insider bank (see Thirteen Bankers by Simon Johnson). But to attribute stupidity to a group of bankers who now have more money, property and investments than anyone else in the world is pure folly. What Is stupid about pursuing a strategy that brings a geometric increase in wealth and power? This was no accident.

And the answer is yes, all of this is relevant to foreclosure litigation. The question is directed at the source of funds for JP Morgan, Chase, Goldman Sachs and the other main players on Wall Street. And the answer is that they stole it. In the complicated world of Wall Street finance, the people at the Department of Justice and the SEC and other regulatory agencies, there are scant resources to investigate this threat to the entire financial system, the economy in each of the world marketplaces, and thus to national security for the U.S. And other nations.

It would be naive in the context of current litigation over mortgages and Foreclosures to expect any judge to allow pleading, discovery or trial on evidence that traces these investments backward from gold derivatives to the origination or acquisition of mortgages. Perhaps one of the regulators who read this blog might make some inquiries but there is little hope that they will connect the dots. But it is helpful to know that there is plenty of corroboration for the position that the REMIC Trusts could not have originated or acquired mortgages because they were never funded with the money given to the broker dealers who sold “mortgage bonds” issued by those Trusts with no chance of repayment because the money was never used to fund the trusts.

The unfunded trusts could not originate or acquire the loans because they never had the money. In fact, they never had a trust account. Thus in a case where the Plaintiff is US Bank as trustee is not only wrong because the PSA and their own website says that trustees don’t initiate Foreclosures — that is reserved to the servicers who appear to have the actual powers of a trustee. The real argument is that the trust was never a party to the loan because the trust was never party to a transaction in which any loan was acquired or originated.

Investors and governmental agencies have sued the broker dealers accusing them of fraud (not bad judgment) and mismanagement of money — all of which lawsuits are being settled almost as quickly as they are filed. The issue is not just bad loans and underwriting of bad loans. That would be breach of contract and could not be subject to claims of fraud. The fraud is that the investment banks took the money from investors and then used it for their own purposes. The first step was skimming a large percentage of the investor funds from the top, in addition to fake underwriting fees on the fake issuance of mortgage bonds from an unfunded trust.

And here is where the first step in mortgage transactions and foreclosure litigation reveals itself — compensation that was never disclosed closed to the borrower in violation of he the Truth in lending Act. While most judges consider the 3 year statute of limitations to run absolutely, it will eventually be recognized by the courts that the statute doesn’t start to run until discovery of the undisclosed compensation by an undisclosed party who was a principal player in permeating the loan. This will be a fight but eventually success will visit someone like Barbara Forde in Scottsdale or in one of the cases my firm handles directly or where we provide litigation support.

The reason it is relevant is that by tracing the funds, it can be determined that the actual “lender” was a group of investors who thought they were buying mortgage bonds and who did not know their money had been diverted into the pockets of the broker dealers, and then used to create fictitious transactions that the banks falsely reported as trading profits. In order to do this the broker dealers had to create the illusion of mortgage loans that were industry standard loans and they had to divert the apparent ownership of those loans from the investors through fraudulent paper trails based on the appearance of transactions that in fact never happened. In truth, contrary to their duties under the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreement, the broker dealers created a false “proprietary” trade in which the investment bank was the actual trader on both sides of the transaction.

They booked some of these “trades” as profits from proprietary trading, but the truth is that this was a yield spread premium that falls squarely within the definition of a yield spread premium — for which the investment bank is liable to be named as a party to the closing of the loan with borrowers. As such, the pleading and proof would be directed at the fact that the investment bank was hiding their identity or even their existence along with the fact that their compensation consisted of a yield spread premium that sometimes was greater than the principal amount of the loan. Under federal law under these facts (if proven) and the pleading would establish that the investment bank should be a party to the claim, affirmative defenses or counterclaim of borrowers for “refund” of the undisclosed compensation, treble damages, interest and attorney fees. I might add that common law doctrines that are not vulnerable to defenses of the statute of limitations under TILA or RESPA, could be used to the same effect. See the Steinberger decision.

Lawyers take note. Instead of getting lost in the weeds of the sufficiency of documentation, you could be pursuing a claim that is likely to more than offset the entire loan. I make this suggestion to attorneys and not to pro se litigants who will probably never have the ability to litigate this issue. My firm offers litigation support to those law firms who have competent litigators who can appear in court and argue this position after our research, drafting and scripting of litigation strategies. Once taught and practiced, those firms should no longer require us to provide support except perhaps for our expert witnesses (including myself). For more information on litigation support services offered to attorneys call 850-765-1236 or write to neilfgarfield@hotmail.com.

I conclude with this: it is unlikely that any judge would seriously entertain discharging liability or stop enforcement of a mortgage merely because of a defect in the documentation. These defects should be used — but only as corroboration for a more serious argument. That the attempted enforcement of the documentation is a cover-up of a fraud against the investors and the borrower; this requires artful litigating to show the judge that your client has a legitimate claim that offsets the alleged debt to the investors who are seeking damage awards not from the borrowers but from the investment bankers. As long as the Judge believes that the right lender and the right borrower are in his court, the judge is not likely to make rulings that would create additional uncertainties in a market that is already unstable.

I have always maintained that a pincer action by investor lenders and homeowner borrowers would bring home the point. The real culprits have been left out of foreclosure litigation. Tying investment banks to the loan closing would enable the homeowner to show that the intermediaries are in fact inserting themselves as parties in interest — to the detriment of the real parties. The investors are bringing their claims against the broker dealers. Now it is time for the borrowers to do their part. This could lead to global settlements in which borrowers and investors are able to mitigate (or even eliminate) their losses.

The Documents Fannie and Freddie Never Received

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Editor’s Comment:

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

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

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

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

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

Freddie Mac Designated Counsel/Trustee For Foreclosures and Bankruptcies 2012

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It’s Down to Banks vs Society

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We are trying to rescue the creditors and restart the world that is dominated by the creditors. We have to rescue the debtors instead before we are going to see the end of this process. — Economist Steve Keen

Bankers Are Willing to Let Society Crash In Order to Make More Money

Editor’s Comment: 

I was reminded last night of a comment from a former bond trader and mortgage bundler that the conference calls are gleeful about the collapse of economies and societies around the world. Wall Street will profit greatly on both the down side and then later when asset prices go so low that housing falls under distressed housing programs and 125% loans become available in bulk. They think this is all just swell. I don’t.

The obvious intent on the part of the mega banks and servicers is to bring everything down with a crash using every means possible. When you look at the offers state and federal government programs have offered for the banks to modify, when you see the amount of money poured into these banks by our federal government in order to prop them up, you cannot conclude otherwise: they want our society to end up closed down not only by foreclosure but in any other way possible. They withhold credit from everyone except the insider’s club.

So now it is up to us. Either we take the banks apart or they will take us apart. I had a recent look at many modification proposals. In the batch I saw, the average offer from the homeowner was to accept a loan 20%-30% higher than fair market value and 50%-75% higher than foreclosure is producing. It seems we are addicted to the belief that this can’t be true because no reasonable person would act like that. But the answer is that the system is rigged so that the intermediaries (the megabanks) control what the investors and homeowners see and hear, they make far more money on foreclosures than they do on modifications, and they make far money on all the “bets” about the failure of the loan by foreclosing and not modifying.

The reason for the unreasonable behavior, as it appears, is that it is perfectly reasonable in a lending environment turned on its head — where the object was to either fund a loan that was sure to fail, or keep a string attached that would declare it as part of a failed “pool” that would trigger insurance and swaps payments.Steve Keen: Why 2012 Is Shaping Up To Be A Particularly Ugly Year

At the high level, our global economic plight is quite simple to understand says noted Australian deflationist Steve Keen.

Banks began lending money at a faster rate than the global economy grew, and we’re now at the turning point where we simply have run out of new borrowers for the ever-growing debt the system has become addicted to.

Once borrowers start eschewing rather than seeking debt, asset prices begin to fall — which in turn makes these same people want to liquidate their holdings, which puts further downward pressure on asset prices:

The reason that we have this trauma for the asset markets is because of this whole relationship that rising debt has to the level of asset market. If you think about the best example is the demand for housing, where does it come from? It comes from new mortgages. Therefore, if you want to sustain he current price level of houses, you have to have a constant flow of new mortgages. If you want the prices to rise, you need the flow of mortgages to also be rising.

Therefore, there is a correlation between accelerating and rising asset markets. That correlation applies very directly to housing. You look at the 20-year period of the market relationship from 1990 to now; the correlation of accelerating mortgage debt with changing house prices is 0.8. It is a very high correlation.

Now, that means that when there is a period where private debt is accelerating you are generally going to see rising asset markets, which of course is what we had up to 2000 for the stock market and of course 2006 for the housing market. Now that we have decelerating debt — so debt is slowing down more rapidly at this time rather than accelerating — that is going to mean falling asset markets.

Because we have such a huge overhang of debt, that process of debt decelerating downwards is more likely to rule most of the time. We will therefore find the asset markets traumatizing on the way down — which of course encourages people to get out of debt. Therefore, it is a positive feedback process on the way up and it is a positive feedback process on the way down.

He sees all of the major countries of the world grappling with deflation now, and in many cases, focusing their efforts in exactly the wrong direction to address the root cause:

Europe is imploding under its own volition and I think the Euro is probably going to collapse at some stage or contract to being a Northern Euro rather than the whole of Euro. We will probably see every government of Europe be overthrown and quite possibly have a return to fascist governments. It came very close to that in Greece with fascists getting five percent of the vote up from zero. So political turmoil in Europe and that seems to be Europe’s fate.

I can see England going into a credit crunch year, because if you think America’s debt is scary, you have not seen England’s level of debt. America has a maximum ratio of private debt to GDP adjusted over 300%; England’s is 450%. America’s financial sector debt was 120% of GDP, England’s is 250%. It is the hot money capital of the western world.

And now that we are finally seeing decelerating debt over there plus the government running on an austerity program at the same time, which means there are two factors pulling on demand out of that economy at once. I think there will be a credit crunch in England, so that is going to take place as well.

America is still caught in the deleveraging process. It tried to get out, it seemed to be working for a short while, and the government stimulus seemed to certainly help. Now, that they are going back to reducing that stimulus, they are pulling up the one thing that was keeping the demand up in the American economy and it is heading back down again. We are now seeing the assets market crashing once more. That should cause a return to decelerating debt — for a while you were accelerating very rapidly and that’s what gave you a boost in employment —  so you are falling back down again.

Australia is running out of steam because it got through the financial crisis by literally kicking the can down the road by restarting the housing bubble with a policy I call the first-time vendors boost. Where they gave first time buyers a larger amount of money from the government and they handed over times five or ten to the people they bought the house off from the leverage they got from the banking sector. Therefore, that finally ran out for them.

China got through the crisis with an enormous stimulus package. I think in that case it is increasing the money supply by 28% in one year. That is setting off a huge property bubble, which from what I have heard from colleagues of mine is also ending.

Therefore, it is a particularly ugly year for the global economy and as you say, we are still trying to get business back to usual. We are trying to rescue the creditors and restart the world that is dominated by the creditors. We have to rescue the debtors instead before we are going to see the end of this process.

In order to successfully emerge on the other side of this this painful period with a more sustainable system, he believes the moral hazard of bailing out the banks is going to have end:

[The banks] have to suffer and suffer badly. They will have to suffer in such a way that in a decade they will be scared in order to never behave in this way again. You have to reduce the financial sector to about one third of its current size and we have to also ultimately set up financial institutions and financial instruments in such a way that it is no longer desirable from a public point of view to borrow and gamble in rising assets processes.

The real mistake we made was to let this gambling happen as it has so many times in the past, however, we let it go on for far longer than we have ever let it go on for before. Therefore, we have a far greater financial parasite and a far greater crisis.

And he offers an unconventional proposal for how this can be achieved:

I think the mistake [central banks] are going to make is to continue honoring debts that should never have been created in the first place. We really know that that the subprime lending was totally irresponsible lending. When it comes to saying “who is responsible for bad debt?” you have to really blame the lender rather than the borrower, because lenders have far greater resources to work out whether or not the borrower can actually afford the debt they are putting out there.

They were creating debt just because it was a way of getting fees, short-term profit, and they then sold the debt onto unsuspecting members of the public as well and securitized their way out of trouble. They ended up giving the hot potato to the public. So, you should not be honoring that debt, you should be abolishing it. But of course they have actually packaged a lot of that debt and sold it to the public as well, you cannot just abolish it, because you then would penalize people who actually thought they were being responsible in saving and buying assets.

Therefore, I am talking in favor of what I call a modern debt jubilee or quantitative easing for the public, where the central banks would create ‘central bank money’ (we cannot destroy or abolish the debt, which would also destroy the incomes of the people who own the bonds the banks have sold). We have to create the state money and give it to the public, but on condition that if you have any debt you have to pay your debt down — no choice. Therefore, if you have debt, you can reduce the debt level, but if you do not have debt, you get a cash injection.

Of course, this would then feed into the financial sector would have to reduce the value of the debts that it currently owns, which means income from debt instruments would also fall. So, people who had bought bonds for their retirement and so on would find that their income would go down, but on the other hand, they would be compensated by a cash injection.

The one part of the system that would be reduced in size is the financial sector itself. That is the part we have to reduce and we have to make smaller.  That is the one that I am putting forward and I think there is a very little chance of implementing it in America for the next few years not all my home country [Australia] because we still think we are doing brilliantly and all that. But, I think at some stage in Europe, and possibly in a very short time frame, that idea might be considered.

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Fine Print: The Real Story on the “$25 Billion” Multistate Settlement

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One of the things I heard from a high ranking official in state government is that only a tiny fraction of the “settlement” is translating into actual dollars from the banks to anyone. In Arizona the $1.3 billion is subject to an “earn-down” as it was described to me and the net amount turned out to be $97 million and then on the website for the attorney general of the state, the $97 million became $47 million.

So I brought up my calculator and discovered that out of the “settlement” the banks were paying themselves around $1.2 billion out of the $1.3 billion (some say it is $1.6 billion, but the net left for the state remains unchanged at $97 million) and that some of the balance of the money is “unaccounted for.” By the way this has NOTHING to do with the Arizona Department of Housing, which is as close to non-political as you can get in any government.

So in plain language, the banks are taking money from their left pocket and putting int heir right pocket and saying it was a deal. This sounds a lot like the fake claims of securitization and assignment of debt on housing, student loans, credit cards, auto loans etc. In the end, no money will move except a tiny percentage because since the banks are simply paying themselves out of their own money how bad can the accounting be for them?

In Arizona, the legislature decided, as per the terms of the “settlement” to take the money and use it as part of general operating funds leaving distressed homeowners with nothing. So now there is something of an uproar in Arizona. Here is a $1.3 billion settlement that could have reversed a downward economic spiral for the state that will be felt for decades, and we end up with only 7% of that figure and then at least half, if not all of that is being taken for uses other than homeowner relief that is essential for economic recovery.

My guess is that they will say they are stopping the move to use the homeowner relief funds for perks to corporate donors and then quietly go out and do it anyway. What is your guess?

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By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

State officials agreed Tuesday to delay the transfer of $50 million of disputed mortgage settlement funds, at least for the time being.

Assistant Attorney General David Weinzweig made the offer during a hearing where challengers were hoping to get a court order blocking the move while its legality is being decided by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain. Attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, who represents those opposed to the transfer, readily agreed.

“You don’t want to rush the judge,” said Hogan, whose clients are people he believes would be helped by the funds.

“You want him to take his time on important questions like this,” Hogan said. “And so it’s reasonable to agree not to transfer the funds for a certain period of time to give the judge the opportunity to do that.”

The move sets the stage for a hearing in August on the merits of the issue.

Weinzweig told Brain he believes the transfer, ordered by state lawmakers earlier this year, is legal. Anyway, he said, Hogan’s clients have no legal standing to challenge what the Legislature did.

The fight surrounds a $26 billion nationwide settlement with five major lenders who were accused of mortgage fraud.

Arizona’s share is about $1.6 billion, with virtually all of that earmarked for direct aid to those who are “under water” on their mortgages — owing more than their property is worth — or have already been forced out of their homes.

But the deal also provided $97 million directly to the state Attorney General’s Office. The terms of that pact said the cash was supposed to help others with mortgage problems as well as investigate and prosecute fraud.

Lawmakers, however, seized on language which also said the money can be used to compensate the state for the effects of the lenders’ actions. They said the result of the mortgage crisis was lower state revenues, giving them permission to take $50 million from the settlement to balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Hogan’s suit is based on his contention that the settlement terms put the entire $97 million in trust and makes Attorney General Tom Horne, who was authorized by state law to sign the deal, responsible for ensuring the cash is properly spent.

Horne urged lawmakers not to take the funds. But once the budget deal was done, he went along and took the position that, regardless of whether the cash could have been better spent elsewhere, the transfer demand is legal.

Whatever Brain rules is likely to be appealed.

The challenge was brought on behalf of two people who would benefit by the state having more money to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The lawsuit said both are currently “at risk” of losing their homes.

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