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.”

Wrong Bailout

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Editor’s Comment:

It isn’t in our own mainstream media but the fact is that Europe is verging on  collapse. They are bailing out banks and taking them apart (something which our regulators refuse to do). The very same banks that caused the crisis are the ones that are going to claim they too need another bailout because of international defaults. The article below seems extreme but it might be right on target.

From the start the treatment of the banks had been wrong-headed and controlled by of course the banks themselves. With Jamie Dimon sitting on the Board of Directors of the NY FED, which is the dominatrix in the Federal Reserve system, what else would you expect?

The fact is that, as Iceland and other countries have proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the bailout of the banks is dead wrong and it is equally wrong-headed to give them the continued blank check to pursue business strategies that drain rather than infuse liquidity in economies that are ailing because of intentional acts of the banks to enrich themselves rather than the countries that give them license to exist.

The bailout we proposed every year and every month and practically every day on this blog is the only one that will work: reduce household debt, return things to normalcy (before the fake securitization of mortgages and other consumer and government debt) and without spending a dime of taxpayer money.  The right people will pay for this and the victims will get some measure of relief — enough to jump start economies that are in a death spiral.

Just look at home mortgages. They were based upon layers of lies that are almost endless and that continue through the present. But the principal lie, the one that made all the difference, was that the mortgage bonds were worth something and the real property was worth more than the supposed loans. With only a few exceptions those were blatant lies that are not legal or permissible under any exemption claimed by Wall Street. Our system of laws says that if you steal from someone you pay for it with your liberty and whatever it is you stole is returned to the victim if it still exists. And what exists, is millions of falsely created invalid illegal instruments recorded in title registries all over the country affecting the title of more than 20 million households.

All we need to do is admit it. The loans are unsecured and the only fair way of handling things is to bring all the parties to the table, work out a deal and stop the foreclosures. This isn’t going to happen unless the chief law enforcement officers of each state and the clerks of the title registry offices wake up to the fact that they are part of the problem. It takes guts to audit the title registry like they did in San Francisco and other states, cities and counties. But the reward is that the truth is known and only by knowing the truth will we correct the problem.

The housing market is continuing to suffer because we are living a series of lies. The government, realtors and the banks and servicers all need us to believe these lies because they say that if we admit them, the entire financial system will dissolve. Ask any Joe or Josephine on the street — the financial system has already failed for them. Income inequality has never been worse and history shows that (1) the more the inequality the more power those with wealth possess to keep things going their way and (2) this eventually leads to chaos and violence. As Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, people will endure almost anything until they just cannot endure it any longer. That time is coming closer than anyone realizes.

Only weeks before France erupted into a bloody revolution with gruesome dispatch of aristocrats, the upper class thought that the masses could be kept in line as long as they were thrown a few crumbs now and then. That behavior of the masses grew from small measures exacted from a resisting government infrastructure to simply taking what they wanted. Out of sheer numbers the aristocracy was unable to fight back against an entire country that was literally up in arms about the unfairness of the system. But even the leaders of the French Revolution and the Merican revolution understood that someone must be in charge and that an infrastructure of laws and enfrocement, confidence in the marketplace and fair dealing must be the status quo. Disturb that and you end up with overthrow of existing authority replaced by nothing of any power or consequence.

Both human nature and history are clear. We can all agree that the those who possess the right stuff should be rich and the rest of us should have a fair shot at getting rich. There is no punishment of the rich or even wealth redistribution. The problem is not wealth inequality. And “class warfare” is not the right word for what is going on — but it might well be the right words if the upper class continue to step on the rest of the people. The problem is that there is no solution to wealth inequality unless the upper class cooperates in bringing order and a fair playing field to the marketplace —- or face the consequences of what people do when they can’t feed, house, educate or protect their children.

LaRouche: The Glass-Steagall Moment Is Upon Us

Spanish collapse can bring down the Trans-Atlantic system this weekend

Abruptly, but lawfully, the Spanish debt crisis has erupted over the past 48 hours into a systemic rupture in the entire trans-Atlantic financial and monetary facade, posing the immediate question: Will the European Monetary Union and the entire trans-Atlantic financial system survive to the end of this holiday weekend?



Late on Friday afternoon, the Spanish government revealed that the cost of bailing out the Bankia bank, which was nationalized on May 9, will now cost Spanish taxpayers nearly 24 billion euro—and rising. Many other Spanish banks are facing imminent collapse or bailout; the autonomous Spanish regions, with gigantic debts of their own, are all now bankrupt and desperate for their own bailout. Over the last week, Spanish and foreign depositors have been pulling their money out of the weakest Spanish banks in a panic, in a repeat of the capital flight out of the Greek banks months ago. 



The situations in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland are equally on the edge of total disintegration—and the exposure of the big Wall Street banks to this European disintegration is so enormous that there is no portion of the trans-Atlantic system that is exempt from the sudden, crushing reality of this collapse.



Whether or not the system holds together for a few days or weeks more, or whether it literally goes into total meltdown in the coming hours, the moment of truth has arrived, when all options to hold the current system together have run out.

Today, in response to this immediate crisis, American political economist Lyndon LaRouche issued a clarion call to action. Referring to the overall trans-Atlantic financial bubble, in light of the Spanish debt explosion of the past 48 hours, LaRouche pinpointed its significance as follows:

“The rate of collapse now exceeds the rate of the attempts to overtake the collapse. That means that, essentially, the entire European system, in its present form, is in the process of a hopeless degeneration. Now, this is something comparable to what happened in Germany in 1923, and they’ve caught themselves in a trap, where a rate of collapse exceeds the rate of their attempt to overtake yesterday.

“So therefore, we’re in a new situation, and the only solution in Europe, in particular, is Glass-Steagall, or the Glass-Steagall equivalent, with no fooling around. Straight Glass-Steagall — no bailouts! None! In other words, you have to collapse the entire euro system. The entirety of the euro system has to collapse. But it has to collapse in the right way; it has to be a voluntary collapse, which is like a Glass-Steagall process. This means the end of the euro, really. The euro system is about to end, because you can’t sustain it.

“Everything is disintegrating now in Europe. It can be rescued very simply, by a Glass-Steagall type of operation, and then going back to the currencies which existed before. In other words, you need a stable system of currencies, or you can’t have a recovery at all! In other words, if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of your bailout, then what happens when you try to increase the bailout, you increase the hysteria. You increase the rate of collapse. In other words, the rate of collapse exceeds the rate of bailout.

“And now, you have Spain, and Portugal implicitly, and the situation in Greece. Italy’s going to go in the same direction. So the present system, which Obama’s trying to sustain, in his own peculiar way, is not going to work. There’s no hope for the system. Nor is there any hope for the U.S. system in its present form. The remedies, the problems, are somewhat different between Europe and the United States, but the nature of the disease is the same. They both have the same disease: It’s called the British disease. It’s hyperinflation.

“So, now you’re in a situation where the only way you can avoid a rate of hyperinflation beyond the rate of hyper-collapse is Glass-Steagall, or the equivalent. You have to save something, you have to save the essentials. Well, the essentials are: You take all the things that go into the bailout category, and you cancel them. How do you cancel them? Very simple: Glass-Steagall. Anything that is not fungible in terms of Glass-Steagall categories doesn’t get paid! It doesn’t get unpaid either; it just doesn’t get paid. Because you remove these things from the categories of things that you’re responsible to pay. You’re not responsible to bail out gambling, you’re not responsible to pay out gambling debts.

“Now, the gambling debts are the hyperinflation. So now, we might as well say it: The United States, among other nations, is hopelessly bankrupt.

“But this is the situation! This is what reality is! And what happens, is the entire U.S. government operation is beyond reckoning. It is collapsing! And there’s only one thing you can do: The equivalent of Glass-Steagall: You take those accounts, which are accounts which are worthy, which are essential to society, you freeze the currencies, their prices, and no bailout. And you don’t pay anything that does not correspond to a real credit. It’s the only solution. The point has been reached—it’s here! You’re in a bottomless pit, very much like Germany 1923, Weimar.

“And in any kind of hyperinflation, this is something you come to. And there’s only one way to do it: Get rid of the bad debt! It’s going to have to happen.

“The entire world system is in a crisis. It’s a general breakdown crisis which is centered in the trans-Atlantic community. That’s where the center of the crisis is. So, in the United States, we’re on the verge of a breakdown, a blowout; it can happen at any time. When will it happen, we don’t know, because we’ve seen this kind of thing before, as in 1923 Germany, November-December 1923, this was the situation. And it went on after that, but it’s a breakdown crisis. And that’s it.

“Those who thought there could be a bailout, or they had some recipe that things were going to be fine, that things would be manageable, that’s all gone! You’re now relieved of that great burden. You need have no anxiety about the U.S. dollar. Why worry about it? Either it’s dead or it’s not! And the only way it’s not going to be dead, is by an end of bailout. That’s the situation.

“We don’t know exactly where the breakdown point comes. But it’s coming, because we’re already in a system in which the rate of breakdown is greater than the rate of any bailout possible! And there’s only one way you can do that: Cancel a whole category of obligations! Those that don’t fit the Glass-Steagall standard, or the equivalent of Glass-Steagall standard: Cancel it, immediately! We don’t pay anything on gambling debts. Present us something that’s not a gambling debt, and we may be able to deal with that.”

LaRouche concluded with a stark warning:

“If you think that this system is going to continue, and you can find some way to get out of this problem, you can not get out of this problem, because you are the problem! Your failure to do Glass-Steagall, is the problem. And it’s your failure! Don’t blame somebody else: If you didn’t force through Glass-Steagall, it’s your fault, and it continues to be your fault! It’s your mistake, which is continuing!

“And that’s the situation we have in Europe, and that, really, is also the situation in the United States.

“But that’s where we are! It’s exactly the situation we face now, and there’s no other discussion that really means much, until we can decide to end the bailout, and to absolutely cancel all illegitimate debt—that is, bailout debt!

“There’s only one solution: The solution is, get rid of the illegitimate disease, the hyperinflation! Get rid of the hyperinflationary factor. Cancel the hyperinflation! Don’t pay those debts! Don’t cancel them, just don’t pay them! You declare them outside the economy, outside the responsibility of government: We can no longer afford to sustain you, therefore, you’ll have to find other remedies of your own. That’s where you are. It had to come, it has been coming.”


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Bribery or Business as Usual?

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Editor’s Comment and Analysis:

There is only one way this isn’t an outright bribe that should land the senator in jail — and that is proving that he received nothing of value. Stories abound in the media about haircut rates given to members of government particularly by Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America. Now we see it on the way down where others go through hoops and ladders to get a modification of short-sale but members of Congress get special treatment.

The only way this could be considered nothing of value is if the banks that gave this favor knew that they didn’t lend the money, didn’t purchase the loan and didn’t have a dime in the deal. They can prove it but they won’t because the fallout would be that there are no loans in print and that there are no perfected mortgage loans. The consequence is that there can be no foreclosures. And it would mean that the values carried on the books of these banks are eihter overstated or entirely fictiouos. The general consensus is that capital requirments for the banks should be higher. But what if the capital they are reporting doesn’t exist?

We are seeing practically everyday how Congress is bought off by the Banks and yet we do nothing. How can you expect to be taken seriously by the executive branch and the judicial branch of goveornment charged with enforcing the laws? If you are doing nothing and complaining, it’s time to get off the couch and do something with the Occupy Movement or your own private war with the banks. If you are not complaining, you should be — because this tsunami is about to hit the front door of your house too whether you are making the payments or not.

The power of the new aristocracy in American and European politics is felt around the globe. People are suffering in the U.S., Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and other places because the smaller banks in all those countries got taken to the cleaners by huge conglomerate Wall Street Banks. Ireland is reporting foreclosures and defaults at record rates. It was fraud with an effect far greater than any other act of domestic or international terrorism. And it isn’t just about money either. Suicides, domestic violence ending in death and mental illness are pandemic. And nobody cares about the little guy because the little guy is just fuel for the endless appetite of Wall Street. 

If Obama rreally wants to galvanize the electorate, he must be proactive on the fierce urgency of NOW! Those were his words when he was a candidate and he owes us action because that urgency was felt in 2008 and is a vice around everyone’s neck now.

JPMorgan Chase & the Senator’s Short Sale:

It’s Hypocritical –But Is It Corrupt?

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

There’s a lot we have yet to learn about the story of Sen. Mike Lee, Tea Party Republican of Utah, and America’s largest bank. But we already know something’s very, very wrong:

Why is it that most Americans can’t get a principal reduction from Chase or any other bank, but JPMorgan Chase was so very flexible with a sitting member of the United States Senate?

The hypocrisy from Sen. Lee and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon overfloweth. But does the Case of the Senator’s Short Sale rise to the level of full-blown corruption? We won’t know until we get some answers.

People should be demanding those answers now.

When Jamie Met Mike

It’s not a pretty picture: In one corner is the Senator who wants to strike down Federal child labor laws and offer American residency to any non-citizen who buys a home with cash. In the other is the bank whose CEO said that the best way to relieve the crushing burden of debt on homeowners is by seizing their homes.

“Giving debt relief to people that really need it,” said Dimon, “that’s what foreclosure is.” That comment is Dickensian in its insensitivity – and Dimon’s bank offered real relief to the Senator from Utah.

The story of the short sale on Sen. Mike Lee’s home broke broke shortly not long after the world learned that JPM lost billions of dollars through trading that might have been illegal, and about which it certainly misled investors.

A Senator who doesn’t believe in child labor laws, and a crime-plagued bank that was just plunged into a trading scandal after losing billions in the London markets.

Why, they were practically made for one another.

Here in the Real World

This was also the week we learned from Zillow, one of the nation’s leading real estate data companies, that there are far more underwater homeowners than previously thought. Zillow collated all the information on home loans, including second mortgages, in order to develop this larger and more accurate number.

The new estimated amount of negative equity – money owed to the banks for non-existent home value – is $1.2 trillion.

Zillow found that nearly 16 million homeowners, representing roughly a third of all homes with a mortgage, were “underwater” (meaning they owe more than the home is now worth). That’s about 50 percent more than had been previously believed. Many of these homeowners are desperate for principal reduction, which would allow them to get back on their feet.

Banks can reduce the amount owed to reflect the current value of the house, which would lower monthly payments for many struggling homeowners. Another option is the “short sale,” in which the bank lets them sell the house for its current value and walk away. That would allow many of them to relocate in search of work.

But the banks, along with their allies in Washington DC, have been fighting principal reduction and resisting any attempts to increase the number of short sales. They remain out of reach for most struggling homeowners.

Mike’s Deal

But Mike Lee didn’t have that problem. Lee was elected to the Senate after buying his luxury home in Alpine, Utah at the height of the real estate boom. JPMorgan Chase agreed to a short sale, and it sold for nearly $400,000 less than the price Lee paid for it four years ago.

Sen. Lee says that he made a down payment on the home, although he hasn’t said how much was involved. But if he paid 15 percent down and put it $150,000, for example, then the Senator from Utah was just allowed to walk away from a quarter of a million dollars in debt obligations to JPMorgan Chase.

Let’s see: A troubled bank gives a sitting member of the United States Senate an advantageous deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? You’d think a story like that would get a little more attention than it has so far.

The Right’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

We haven’t seen this much hypocrisy in the real estate world since the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from loans on its own headquarters even as its CEO, John Courson, was lecturing Americans their “legal obligation” and the terrible “message they would send” by walking away from their mortgages.

Then he did a short sale on the MBA’s headquarters. It sold for a reported $41 million, just three years after the MBA – those captains of real estate – paid $74 million for it.

The MBA calls itself “the voice of the mortgage banking industry.”

The hypocrisy may be even greater in this case. Sen. Mike Lee is a member in good standing of the Tea Party, a movement which began on the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a protest against the idea that the government might help underwater homeowners, even though many of the angry traders had enriched themselves thanks to government bailouts.

When their ringleader mentioned households struggling with negative equity, these first members of the Tea Party broke into a chant: “Losers! Losers! Losers!”

Mike Lee’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Which gets us to Mike Lee. Lee accepted a handout of JPMorgan Chase after voting to end unemployment for jobless Americans. Lee also argued against Federal child labor laws, although he did acknowledge that child labor is “reprehensible.”

How big a hypocrite is Mike Lee? His website (which, curiously enough, went down as we wrote these words) says he believes “the federal government’s out-of-control spending has evolved into a major threat to our economic prosperity and job creation” and that he came to Washington to, among other things, “properly manage our finances”. Lee’s website also scolds Congress because, he says, it “cannot live within its means.”

As Ed McMahon used to say, “Write your own joke.”

Needless to say, Lee also advocates drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare while pushing lower taxes for the wealthy – and plumping for exactly the same kind of deregulation which let bankers to run amok and wreck the economy in 2008 by doing things like … well, like what JPMorgan Chase just did in London.

“Give Me Your Wired, Your Wealthy, Your Upper Classes Yearning to Buy Cheap”

Lee has also co-sponsored a bill with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from Wall Street New York, that would grant US residency to foreigners who purchase a home worth at least $500,000 – as long as they paid cash.

The Lee/Schumer bill would be a big boon to US banks – banks, in fact, like JPMorgan Chase. If it passes, the Statue of Liberty may need to be reshaped so that Lady Liberty is holding a book of real estate listings in her right hand while wearing a hat that reads “Million Dollar Sellers’ Club.”

Mike Lee’s bill would also have propped up the luxury home market, offering a big financial boost to people who are struggling to hold to the equity they’ve put into high-end homes, people like … well, like Mike Lee.

Jamie Dimon’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Then there’s Jamie Dimon, who spoke for his fellow bankers during negotiations that led up to the very cushy $25 billion settlement that let banks like his off the hook for widespread lawbreaking in their foreclosure fraud crime wave.

“Yeah,” Dimon said of principal reductions for homeowners like Sen. Lee, “that’s off the table.”

Dimon’s been resisting global solutions to the negative equity problems for years. He said in 2010 that he preferred to make decisions about homeowners on a “loan by loan” basis.

The Rich Are Different – They Have More Mortgage Relief

“The rich are different,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, and (in a quote often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway) literary critic Mary Colum observed that ” the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.”

And they apparently find it a lot easier to walk away from their underwater homes.There’s been a dramatic increase in short sales lately, and the evidence suggests that most of the deals have been going to luxury homeowners. Among other things, this trend toward high-end short sales the lie to the popular idea that bankers and their allies don’t want to “reward the underserving,” since hedge fund traders who overestimated next year’s bonus are clearly less deserving than working families who purchased a modest home for themselves.

Nevertheless, that’s where most of the debt relief seems to be going: to the wealthy, and not to the middle class.

Guess that’s what happens when loan officers working for Dimon and other Wall Street CEOs handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis.

Immoral Logic

While this “loan by loan” approach lacks morality, there’s some financial logic to it. Banks typically have a lot more money at risk in an underwater luxury home than they do in more modest houses. A short sale provides them with a way to clear things up, recoup what they can, and get their books in a little more order than before. That’s why JPMorgan Chase has been offering selected borrowers up to $35,000 to accept short sales. You can bet they’re not offering that deal to middle class families.

There are other reasons to offer short sales to the wealthy: JPM, like all big banks, is pursuing very-high-end banking clients more aggressively than ever. That’s where the profits are. So why alienate a high-value client when they may offer you the opportunity to recoup losses elsewhere?

(“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Dimon, but it’s London calling.”)

Corruption Or Not: The Questions

Both the bank and the Senator need to answer some questions about this deal. Here’s what the public deserves to know:

Could the writedown on the home’s value be considered an in-kind gift to a sitting Senator?

If so, then we have a very real scandal on our hands. But we don’t know enough to answer that question yet.

What are JPMorgan Chase’s procedures for deciding who receives mortgage relief and who doesn’t?

Dimon may prefer to handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis, but there must be guidelines that bank officers can follow. And presumably they’ve been written down somewhere. Were they followed in Mike Lee’s case?

Who was involved in the decision to offer this deal to Mike Lee?

Offering mortgage relief to a sitting Senator is, to borrow a phrase, “a big elfin’ deal.” A mid-level bank officer isn’t likely to handle a case like this without taking it up the chain of command. So who made the final decision on Mike Lee’s mortgage?

It wouldn’t be unheard of if a a sensitive matter like this one was escalated to all the way to the company’s most senior executive – especially if that executive has eliminated any checks on his power, much less any independent input from shareholders, by serving as both the Chair(man) of the Board and the CEO.

In this, as in so many of JPM’s scandals, the question must be asked: What did Jamie know, and when did he know it?

Is Mike Lee a “Friend of Jamie”?

Which raises a related question: Is there is a formal or informal list of people for whom JPM employees are directed to give preferential treatment?

Everybody remembers the scandal that surrounded Sen. Chris Dodd when it was learned that his mortgage was given favorable treatment by Countrywide – even though the Senator apparently knew nothing about it at the time. The world soon learned then that Countrywide had a VIP program called “Friends of Angelo,” named for CEO Angelo Mozilo, and those who were on the list got special treatment.

Is there a “Friends of Jamie” list at JPMorgan Chase – and is Mike Lee’s name on it?

Were there any discussions between the bank’s executives and the Senator regarding the foreign home buyer’s bill or any other legislation that affected Wall Street?

Until this question is answered the issue of a possible quid pro quo will hang over both the Senator and JPMorgan Chase.

Seriously, guys – this doesn’t look good.

Was MERS used to evade state taxes and recording requirements on Sen. Lee’s home? 

JPMorgan Chase funded, and was an active participant, in the “MERS” program which was used, among other things, to bypass local taxes and legal requirements for recording titles.

As we wrote when we reviewed hundreds of internal MERS documents, MERS was instrumental in allowing banks to bundle and sell mortgage-backed securities in a way that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008. It also helped bankers artificially inflate real estate prices, encourage homeowners to take out loans at bubble prices, and then leave them holding the note (as underwater homeowners) after the collapse of national real estate values that they had artificially pumped up.

“Today’s Wall Street Corruption Fun Fact”: MERS was operated by the Mortgage Bankers Association – the same group of real estate geniuses who lost $30 million on a single building in three years, then gave a little lecture on morality to the homeowners they’d been so instrumental in shafting.

Q&A

I was also asked some very reasonable questions by a policy advocacy group. Here they are, with my answers:

If this happened to the average American, would they be able to walk away from the mortgage as well?

If by “average American” you mean “most homeowners,” then the answer is: No. Although short sales are on the rise, most underwater homeowners have not been given the option of going through a short sale. Mike Lee was. The question is, why?

Will Mike Lee’s credit rating be adversely affected?

This is a very important question. The credit rating industry serves banks, not consumers, and it operates at their beck and call.

The answer to this question depends on how JPM handled the paperwork. Many (and probably most) homeowners involved in a short sale take a hit to their credit rating. If Lee did not, it smacks of special treatment.

Given the fact that it was JPMorgan who financed the loss, does that mean, indirectly through the bailout, that the taxpayers paid for Lee’s mortgage write-off?

That gets tricky – but in a moral sense, you could certainly say that.

Short Selling Democracy

There’s no question that this deal is hypocritical and ugly, and that it reflects much of what’s still broken about both our politics and Wall Street. Is it a scandal? Without these answers we can’t know. This was either a case of the special treatment that is so often reserved for the wealthy, or it’s something even worse: influence peddling and political corruption.

it’s time for JPMorgan Chase and Sen. Mike Lee to come clean about this deal. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. Either way the public’s entitled to some answers.


WHO BENEFITS FROM AUSTERITY? WALL STREET!

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Editor’s Comment:

You might wonder why people, mostly republicans, are all about “spending cuts.” just for clarification here, spending cuts are what Europe calls “austerity measures.” every policy possibility has been played here and the worst one is clearly austerity or “spending cuts.” everyone calling for austerity is controlled by the banks. Everyone who is not controlled by the banks thinks it isn’t a bad idea to continue government safety nets and sponsor more commerce. Once upon a time Wall Street made its money riding the crest of successful economies, collecting brokerage fees for more and more deals. Not anymore. The Banks are intent on taking the capital — all of it. What then?

People think it makes sense to spend less money to have more. But when the government does that it has less, not more money, thus cutting off vital services. So you might want to think about who benefits as all the major industrialised nations go down the tubes. We know government loses, we know the people lose their services and pay more taxes, so who is it that benefits from the austerity spin?

WALL STREET is the answer. With the level of commerce declining, plummeting they can bet on a sure thing — that interest rates are going to go through the roof, which means that the prices of bonds already issued are going to fall like stones. Only on Wall street can you make bets on interest rates and bets on bonds or groups of bonds or banks or groups of banks. They are pushing the austerity engine and taking us all into a ditch while Wall Street rakes in whatever money is left in our limping economy.

Wall Street has not only turned the lending models on their heads they have succeeded at turning the policy models on their head. The results are unthinkable— Wall Street has created an incentive to kill commerce. And now they are so deep into those bets that the only game in town is putting every economy into crisis. Someone needs to pull the rug out from under these banksters and put them jail where they belong. As society gave them the license to create and grow liquidity for the engine of economic growth so too can society take it away when the banks bite the hands that fed them.

Paul Krugman Debunks Mitt Romney’s Economic Nonsense

By: Jason Easley

On CNN, Paul Krugman called out Mitt Romney today for spouting nonsense about the economy and explained why Romney’s plan to do what Greece did won’t bring prosperity to America.

Here are Krugman’s thoughts on Obama and Romney via CNN:

ZAKARIA: All this said and done, are you enthusiastic about President Obama? You were not for him in the Democratic primary four years ago.

KRUGMAN: Right. I mean, we’re a long way past where I think enthusiasm is the appropriate emotion for anything here.

But he’s learned a lot. And, you know, his heart’s always been in the right place, and I believe his head is now in the right place. And you certainly — of course, I can’t do endorsements, right? It’s a Times rule. So you have no idea who I prefer in this election.

(LAUGHTER)

But he certainly is talking sense about the economy, and Mitt Romney is talking utter nonsense. And you really do worry. In effect…

ZAKARIA: What is the single biggest piece of nonsense that Mitt Romney…

KRUGMAN: Mitt Romney is saying basically that spending cuts are how we’re going to get to prosperity. Mitt Romney is saying, see what’s happening in Greece and in Portugal and in Spain and in Ireland; let’s do that here.

Boy — you know, we’ve just had a massive test, human experimentation on a massive scale, in effect, alternative doctrines of economic management. We’ve just seen which doctrines are disastrous. And the Republican platform is, let’s put that doctrine that has just caused collapse in Europe — let’s put that doctrine into effect right here in America.

Krugman was right on the money. Republicans have been trying to play what they think is a clever game of pretending that what they have proposed isn’t austerity, while at the same time threatening to implement austerity if they don’t get what they want, which is austerity. History shows that economies suffocate under austerity, but Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan keep pushing the insane idea is that we can do the same thing that Europe did, but expect a different result.

Republicans are using austerity as an economic justification for their policy of feeding the rich while starving everyone else. The Romney and Ryan plans by design don’t force any austerity measures on the wealthy. The austerity is designed for everyone else. The rich would benefit while America’s devolution into a society of haves and have nots would accelerate. The reality is that Spending cuts never bring prosperity, and many of the rank and file Republicans who are championing the cuts fail to understand that those cuts will be coming out of their hides. All of the Republicans over 65 years of age who support Romney haven’t put the pieces together that a vote for Mitt is a vote to slash their Medicare.

Mitt Romney is spewing contradictory economic nonsense, because the Republican platform is becoming little more than historically discredited feel good dreams of trickledown worship and gibberish.

Paul Krugman is right. A majority of his fellow economists know he is right. The American people know he is right, and history proves him correct, but the Republican Party is trapped in a suicidal fantasy economy of their own creation. It is this fantasy that Romney has to pander to in order to keep his base, and it is the same fantasy that Paul Krugman absolutely destroyed.

The Rain in Spain May Start Falling Here

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Editor’s Comment:

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

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

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

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

Spain Underplaying Bank Losses Faces Ireland Fate

By Yalman Onaran

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

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

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

Double-Dip Recession

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

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

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

Bankia Loans

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

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

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

Rajoy Measures

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

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

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

Santander, BBVA

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

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

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

Housing Bubble

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

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

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

Irish Losses

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

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

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

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

Mortgage Defaults

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

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

‘The New Ireland’

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

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

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

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

‘More Pressure’

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

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

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

Correlation Risk

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

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

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

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

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

IRELAND TAKES THE PLUNGE: INVESTOR HAIRCUTS

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

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Like the Cuban Missile Crisis, someone needs to blink. Ireland is taking the unthinkable step of coming to the only obvious and workable conclusion, whether it hurts or not: there is nobody left to take the loss except the investors and the banks. They are getting a “haircut” in lieu of the decapitation of the taxpayers and homeowners. It isn’t a question of politics or ideology. There is a simple fact: we have some $615 trillion in “currency” (credit derivatives) being moved to exchanges, the value of which is completely unknown because most of them are private deals. There is only $50 trillion of real currency in the world. The investors are holding vapor. Sorry, but that is the way it is. Taxpayers can barely deal with the volume of currency being pumped into  world markets now. The only way to “save” investors would be to increase ‘quantitative easing” or printing money by a factor of 12. In other words, we have choice, live to fight another day or let the banks keep their “profits”  while the rest of us die if not literally, then in some very real figurative ways.

Ireland steps back into the ring

Published: October 31 2010 20:40 | Last updated: October 31 2010 20:40

Over the course of the financial crisis, the Irish government’s policy towards the banks has swung from deftness to debility. Its push for a showdown with junior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank shows Dublin is on the offensive again.

Not before time, it has dawned on the government that the Irish people should not spare Anglo’s creditors the cost of the foolish eagerness with which they funded the bank’s real estate punts. After burning €29bn of taxpayer money Dublin has found the gumption to let Anglo pick a fight with investors one rank up from the already-wiped-out private shareholders.

This shows a degree of diabolical genius that had so far eluded this government. The plan is to pit junior creditors against each other the better to wrestle them into submission. They may swap subordinated debt for government-guaranteed paper at 20 per cent of par value (5 per cent for undated debt) but only if bondholders as a class agree to write untendered bonds down to just one cent in €1,000. Those who decline the offer, which comes in just under market value, risk that 75 per cent of their co-creditors approve the writedown, leaving hold-outs stripped to the bone.

Affected bondholders cry foul, but the terror tactic looks within the bounds of the law. Necessary to make it work, however, is Dublin’s new-found determination to enforce haircuts through mooted resolution legislation if the “voluntary” burden-sharing disappoints.

This is why, regrettably, we are unlikely to see similar “liability management” for senior debt. Ireland’s leaders remain convinced they cannot force a haircut on senior bank creditors any more than on depositors or holders of Irish sovereign debt. They are mistaken.

Senior debt ranks equal to deposits under insolvency rules. But a government can selectively bail out depositors of an insolvent bank in exchange for their pari passu claims on its estate, as the UK did with Icesave depositors. The equivalence of private and sovereign debt is a creature of Dublin’s imagination – though increasingly one of its making: the government has far too promiscuously expanded its legal guarantees of bank liabilities.

Markets are still uncertain how much of the Irish banking sector’s bloated balance sheets the government intends to stand behind – but they know it cannot stand behind it all. Speeding up promised legislation on special resolution authority would delimit Dublin’s contingent liabilities once and for all. It should do so – to safeguard its own creditworthiness and to show that indentured taxpayers can be freed.

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