Banks Trying to Get Bill Through Congress Protecting MERS

Editor’s Comment: It is no small wonder that the banks are scared. After all they created MERS and they control MERS and many of them own MERS. The Washington Supreme Court ruling leaves little doubt that MERS is a sham, leaving even less doubt that an industry is sprouting up for wrongful foreclosure in which trillions of dollars are at stake.

The mortgages that were used for foreclosure are, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a growing number of courts and lawyers and regulatory agencies around the country, State and Federal, were fatally defective and that leads to the conclusion that (1) the foreclosures can be overturned and (2) millions of dollars in damages might be payable to those homeowners who were foreclosed and evicted from homes they legally owned.

But the problem for the megabanks is even worse than that. If the mortgages were defective (deeds of trust in some states), then the money collected by the banks from insurance, credit default swaps, federal bailouts and buyouts and other hedge instruments pose an enormous liability to the large banks that promulgated this scam known as securitization where the last thing they had in mind was securitization. In many cases, the loans were effectively sold multiple times thus creating a liability not only to the borrower that illegally had his home seized but a geometrically higher liability to other financial institutions and governments and investors for selling them toxic waste.

There is a reason that that the bailout is measured at $17 trillion and it isn’t because those are losses caused by defaults in mortgages which appear to total less than 10% of that amount. The total of ALL mortgages during that period that are subject to claims of securitization (false claims, in my opinion) was only $13 trillion. So why was the $17 trillion bailout $4 trillion more than all the mortgages put together, most of which are current on their payments?

The reason is that some bets went well, in which case the banks kept the profits and didn’t tell the investors about it even though it was investor with which money they were betting.

If the loan went sour, or the Master Servicer, in its own interest, declared that the value of the pool had been diminished by a higher than expected default rate, then the insurance contract and credit default contract REQUIRED payment even though most of the loans were intact. Of course we now know that the loans were probably never in the pools anyway.

The bets that ended up in losses were tossed over the fence at the Federal Government and the bets that were “good” ended up with the insurers (AIG, AMBAC) having to pay out more money than they were worth. Enter the Federal Government again to make up the difference where the banks collected 100 cents on the dollar, didn’t tell the investors and declared the loans in default anyway and then proceeded to foreclose.

The banks’ answer to this knotty problem is predictable. Overturn the Washington Supreme Court case and others like it appellate and trial courts around the country by having Congress declare that the MERS transactions were valid. The biggest hurdle they must overcome is not a paperwork problem —- it is a money problem.

In many if not most cases, neither MERS nor the named payee on the note nor the “lender” identified on the note and mortgage had loaned any money at all. Even the banks are saying that the loans are owned by the “Trusts” but it now appears as though the trusts were never funded by either money or loans and that there were no bank accounts or any other accounts for those pools.

That leaves nothing but nominees for unidentified parties in all the blank spaces on the note and mortgage, whose terms were different than the payback provisions promised to the investor lenders. And THAT means that much of the assets carried on the books of the banks are simply worthless and non-existent AND that there is a liability associated with those transactions that is geometrically higher than the false assets that the banks are reporting.

So the question comes down to this: will Congress try to save MERS? (I.e., will they try to save the banks again with a legal bailout?). Will the effort even be constitutional since it deals with property required to be governed under States’ rights under the constitution or are we going to forget the Constitution and save the banks at all costs?

When you cast your ballot in November, remember to look at the candidates you are considering. If they are aligned with the banks, we can expect slashed pension benefits next year along with a whole new round of housing and economic decline.

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Everything Built on Myth Eventually Fails

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Editor’s Comment:

The good news is that the myth of Jamie Dimon’s infallaibility is at least called into question. Perhaps better news is that, as pointed out by Simon Johnson’s article below, the mega banks are not only Too Big to Fail, they are Too Big to Manage, which leads to the question, of why it has taken this long for Congress and the Obama administration to conclude that these Banks are Too Big to Regulate. So the answer, now introduced by Senator Brown, is to make the banks smaller and  put caps on them as to what they can and cannot do with their risk management.

But the real question that will come to fore is whether lawmakers in Dimon’s pocket will start feeling a bit squeamish about doing whatever Dimon asks. He is now becoming a political and financial liability. The $2.3 billion loss (and still counting) that has been reported seems to be traced to the improper trading in credit default swaps, an old enemy of ours from the mortgage battle that continues to rage throughout the land.  The problem is that the JPM people came to believe in their own myth which is sometimes referred to as sucking on your own exhaust. They obviously felt that their “risk management” was impregnable because in the end Jamie would save the day.

This time, Jamie can’t turn to investors to dump the loss on, thus drying up liquidity all over the world. This time he can’t go to government for a bailout, and this time the traction to bring the mega banks under control is getting larger. The last vote received only 33 votes from the Senate floor, indicating that Dimon and the wall Street lobby had control of 2/3 of the senate. So let ius bask in the possibility that this is the the beginning of the end for the mega banks, whose balance sheets, business practices and public announcements have all been based upon lies and half truths.

This time the regulators are being forced by public opinion to actually peak under the hood and see what is going on there. And what they will find is that the assets booked on the balance sheet of Dimon’s monolith are largely fictitious. This time the regulators must look at what assets were presented to the Federal Reserve window in exchange for interest free loans. The narrative is shifting from the “free house” myth to the reality of free money. And that will lead to the question of who is the creditor in each of the transactions in which a mortgage loan is said to exist.

Those mortgage loans are thought to exist because of a number of incorrect presumptions. One of them is that the obligation remains unpaid and is secured. Neither is true. Some loans might still have a balance due but even they have had their balances reduced by the receipt of insurance proceeds and the payoff from credit default swaps and other credit enhancements, not to speak of the taxpayer bailout.

This money was diverted from investor lenders who were entitled to that money because their contracts and the representations inducing them to purchase bogus mortgage bonds, stated that the investment was investment grade (Triple A) and because they thought they were insured several times over. It is true that the insurance was several layers thick and it is equally true that the insurance payoff covered most if not all the balances of all the mortgages that were funded between 1996 and the present. The investor lenders should have received at least enough of that money to make them whole — i.e., all principal and interest as promissed.

Instead the Banks did the unthinkable and that is what is about to come to light. They kept the money for themselves and then claimed the loss of investors on the toxic loans and tranches that were created in pools of money and mortgages — pools that in fact never came into existence, leaving the investors with a loose partnership with other investors, no manager, and no accounting. Every creditor is entitled to payment in full — ONCE, not multiple times unless they have separate contracts (bets) with parties other than the borrower. In this case, with the money received by the investment banks diverted from the investors, the creditors thought they had a loss when in fact they had a claim against deep pocket mega banks to receive their share of the proceeds of insurance, CDS payoffs and taxpayer bailouts.

What the banks were banking on was the stupidity of government regulators and the stupidity of the American public. But it wasn’t stupidity. it was ignorance of the intentional flipping of mortgage lending onto its head, resulting in loan portfolios whose main characteristic was that they would fail. And fail they did because the investment banks “declared” through the Master servicer that they had failed regardless of whether people were making payments on their mortgage loans or not. But the only parties with an actual receivable wherein they were expecting to be paid in real money were the investor lenders.

Had the investor lenders received the money that was taken by their agents, they would have been required to reduce the balances due from borrowers. Any other position would negate their claim to status as a REMIC. But the banks and servicers take the position that there exists an entitlement to get paid in full on the loan AND to take the house because the payment didn’t come from the borrower.

This reduction in the balance owed from borrowers would in and of itself have resulted in the equivalent of “principal reduction” which in many cases was to zero and quite possibly resulting in a claim against the participants in the securitization chain for all of the ill-gotten gains. remember that the Truth In Lending Law states unequivocally that the undisclosed profits and compensation of ANYONE involved in the origination of the loan must be paid, with interest to the borrower. Crazy you say? Is it any crazier than the banks getting $15 million for a $300,000 loan. Somebody needs to win here and I see no reason why it should be the megabanks who created, incited, encouraged and covered up outright fraud on investor lenders and homeowner borrowers.

Making Banks Small Enough And Simple Enough To Fail

By Simon Johnson

Almost exactly two years ago, at the height of the Senate debate on financial reform, a serious attempt was made to impose a binding size constraint on our largest banks. That effort – sometimes referred to as the Brown-Kaufman amendment – received the support of 33 senators and failed on the floor of the Senate. (Here is some of my Economix coverage from the time.)

On Wednesday, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Efficient Banking Act, or SAFE, which would force the largest four banks in the country to shrink. (Details of this proposal, similar in name to the original Brown-Kaufman plan, are in this briefing memo for a Senate banking subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, available through Politico; see also these press release materials).

His proposal, while not likely to immediately become law, is garnering support from across the political spectrum – and more support than essentially the same ideas received two years ago.  This week’s debacle at JP Morgan only strengthens the case for this kind of legislative action in the near future.

The proposition is simple: Too-big-to-fail banks should be made smaller, and preferably small enough to fail without causing global panic. This idea had been gathering momentum since the fall of 2008 and, while the Brown-Kaufman amendment originated on the Democratic side, support was beginning to appear across the aisle. But big banks and the Treasury Department both opposed it, parliamentary maneuvers ensured there was little real debate. (For a compelling account of how the financial lobby works, both in general and in this instance, look for an upcoming book by Jeff Connaughton, former chief of staff to former Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware.)

The issue has not gone away. And while the financial sector has pushed back with some success against various components of the Dodd-Frank reform legislation, the idea of breaking up very large banks has gained momentum.

In particular, informed sentiment has shifted against continuing to allow very large banks to operate in their current highly leveraged form, with a great deal of debt and very little equity.  There is increasing recognition of the massive and unfair costs that these structures impose on the rest of the economy.  The implicit subsidies provided to “too big to fail” companies allow them to boost compensation over the cycle by hundreds of millions of dollars.  But the costs imposed on the rest of us are in the trillions of dollars.  This is a monstrously unfair and inefficient system – and sensible public figures are increasingly pointing this out (including Jamie Dimon, however inadvertently).

American Banker, a leading trade publication, recently posted a slide show, “Who Wants to Break Up the Big Banks?” Its gallery included people from across the political spectrum, with a great deal of financial sector and public policy experience, along with quotations that appear to support either Senator Brown’s approach or a similar shift in philosophy with regard to big banks in the United States. (The slide show is available only to subscribers.)

According to American Banker, we now have in the “break up the banks” corner (in order of appearance in that feature): Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Sheila Bair, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Tom Hoenig, a board member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Utah; Senator Brown; Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. (I am also on the American Banker list).

Anat Admati of Stanford and her colleagues have led the push for much higher capital requirements – emphasizing the particular dangers around allowing our largest banks to operate in their current highly leveraged fashion. This position has also been gaining support in the policy and media mainstream, most recently in the form of a powerful Bloomberg View editorial.

(You can follow her work and related discussion on this Web site; on twitter she is @anatadmati.)

Senator Brown’s legislation reflects also the idea that banks should fund themselves more with equity and less with debt. Professor Admati and I submitted a letter of support, together with 11 colleagues whose expertise spans almost all dimensions of how the financial sector really operates.

We particularly stress the appeal of having a binding “leverage ratio” for the largest banks. This would require them to have at least 10 percent equity relative to their total assets, using a simple measure of assets not adjusted for any of the complicated “risk weights” that banks can game.

We also agree with the SAFE Banking Act that to limit the risk and potential cost to taxpayers, caps on the size of an individual bank’s liabilities relative to the economy can also serve a useful role (and the same kind of rule should apply to non-bank financial institutions).

Under the proposed law, no bank-holding company could have more than $1.3 trillion in total liabilities (i.e., that would be the maximum size). This would affect our largest banks, which are $2 trillion or more in total size, but in no way undermine their global competitiveness. This is a moderate and entirely reasonable proposal.

No one is suggesting that making JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo smaller would be sufficient to ensure financial stability.

But this idea continues to gain traction, as a measure complementary to further strengthening and simplifying capital requirements and generally in support of other efforts to make it easier to handle the failure of financial institutions.

Watch for the SAFE Banking Act to gain further support over time.

How Wall Street Perverted the 4 Cs of Mortgage Underwriting

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Editor’s Comment: 

For thousands of years since the dawn of money credit has been an integral part of the equation.  Anytime a person, company or institution takes your money or valuables in exchange for a promise that it will return your money or property or pay it to someone else (like in a check) credit is involved.  Most bank customers do not realize that they are creditors of the bank in which they deposit their money.  But all of them recognize that on some level they need to know or believe that the bank will be able to make good on its promise to honor the check or pay the money as instructed. 

Most people who use banks to hold their money do so in the belief that the bank has a history of being financially stable and always honoring withdrawals.  Some depositors may look a little further to see what the balance sheet of the bank looks like.   Of course the first thing they look at is the amount of cash shown on the balance sheet so that a perspective depositor can make an intelligent decision about the liquidity or availability of the funds they deposit. 

So the depositor is in essence lending money to the bank upon the assumption of repayment based upon the operating history of the bank, the cash in the bank and any other collateral (like FDIC guarantees).

As it turns out these are the 4 Cs of loan underwriting which has been followed since the first person was given money to hold and issued a paper certificate in exchange. The paper certificate was intended to be used as either a negotiable instrument for payment in a far away land or for withdrawal when directly presented to the person who took the money and issued the promise on paper to return it.

Eventually some people developed good reputations for safe keeping the money.  Those that developed good reputations were allowed by the depositors to keep the money for longer and longer periods.  After a while, the persons holding the money (now called banks) realized that in addition to charging a fee to the depositor they could use the depositor’s money to lend out to other people.  The good banks correctly calculated the probable amount of time for the original depositor to ask for his money back and adjusted loan terms to third parties that would be due before the depositor demanded his money.

The banks adopted the exact same strategy as the depositors.  The 4 Cs of underwriting a loan—Capacity, Credit, Cash and Collateral—are the keystones of conventional loan underwriting. 

The capacity of a borrower is determined by their ability to repay the debt without reference to any other source or collateral.  For the most part, banks successfully followed this model until the late 1990s when they discovered that losing money could be more profitable than making money.  In order to lose money they obviously had to invert the ratios they used to determine the capacity of the borrower to repay the money.  To accomplish this, they needed to trick or deceive the borrower into believing that he was getting a loan that he could repay, when in fact the bank knew that he could not repay it.  To create maximum confusion for borrowers the number of home loan products grew from a total of 5 different types of loans in 1974 to a total of 456 types of loans in 2006.  Thus the bank was assured that a loss could be claimed on the loan and that the borrower would be too confused to understand how the loss had occurred.  As it turned out the regulators had the same problem as the borrowers and completely missed the obscure way in which the banks sought to declare losses on residential loans.

Like the depositor who is trusting the bank based upon its operating history, the bank normally places its trust in the borrower to repay the loan based upon the borrowers operating history which is commonly referred to as their credit worthiness, credit score or credit history.  Like the capacity of the borrower this model was used effectively until the late 1990s when it too was inverted.  The banks discovered that a higher risk of non-payment was directly related to the “reasonableness” of charging a much higher interest rate than prevailing rates.  This created profits, fees and premiums of previously unimaginable proportions.  The bank’s depositors were expecting a very low rate of interest in exchange for what appeared as a very low risk of nonpayment from the bank.  By lending the depositor’s money to high risk borrowers whose interest rate was often expressed in multiples of the rate paid to depositors, the banks realized they could loan much less in principal than the amount given to them by the depositor leaving an enormous profit for the bank.  The only way the bank could lose money under this scenario would be if the loan was actually repaid.  Since some loans would be repaid, the banks instituted a power in the master servicer to declare a pool of loans to be in default even if many of the individual loans were not in default.  This declaration of default was passed along to investors (depositors) and borrowers alike where eventually both would in many, if not most cases, perceive the investment as a total loss without any knowledge that the banks had succeeded in grabbing “profits” that were illegal and improper regardless if one referred to common law or statutory law.

Capacity and credit are usually intertwined with the actual or stated income of the borrower.  Most borrowers and unfortunately most attorneys are under the mistaken belief that an inflated income shown on the application for the loan, subjects the borrower to potential liability for fraud.  In fact, the reverse is true.  Because of the complexity of real estate transactions, a history of common law dating back hundreds of years together with modern statutory law, requires the lender to perform due diligence in verifying the ability of the borrower to repay the loan and in assessing the viability of the loan.  Some loans had a teaser rate of a few hundred dollars per month.  The bank had full knowledge that the amount of the monthly payment would change to an amount exceeding the gross income of the borrower.   In actuality the loan had a lifespan that could only be computed by reference to the date of closing and the date that payments reset.  The illusion of a 30-year loan along with empty promises of refinancing in a market that would always increase in value, led borrowers to accept prices that were at times a multiple of the value of the property or the value of the loan.  Banks have at their fingertips numerous websites in which they can confirm the likelihood of a perspective borrower to repay the loan simply by knowing the borrower’s occupation and geographical location.  Instead, they allowed mortgage brokers to insert absurd income amounts in occupations which never generate those levels of income.  In fact, we have seen acceptance and funding of loans based upon projected income from investments that had not yet occurred where the perspective investment was part of a scam in which the mortgage broker was intimately involved.  See Merendon Mining scandal.

The Cash component of the 4 Cs.  Either you have cash or you don’t have cash.  If you don’t have cash, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would consider a substantial loan much less a deposit into a bank that was obviously about to go out of business.   This rule again was followed for centuries until the 1990s when the banks replaced the requirement of cash from the borrower with a second loan or even a third loan in order to “seal the deal”.  In short, the cash requirement was similarily inverted from past practices.  The parties involved at the closing table were all strawmen performing fees for service.  The borrower believed that a loan underwriting was taking place wherein a party was named on the note as the lender and also named in the security instrument as the secured party. The borrower believed that the closing could never have occurred but for the finding by the “underwriting lender” that the loan was proper and viable.  The people at the closing table other than the borrower, all knew that the loan was neither proper nor viable.  In many cases the borrower had just enough cash to move into a new house and perhaps purchase some window treatments.  Since the same credit game was being played at furniture stores and on credit cards, more money was given to the borrower to create fictitious transactions in which furniture, appliances, and home improvements were made at the encouragement of retailers and loan brokers.  Hence the cash requirement was also inverted from a positive to a negative with full knowledge by the alleged bank who didn’t bother to pass this knowledge on to its “depositors” (actually, investors in bogus mortgage bonds). 

Collateral is the last of the 4 Cs in conventional loan underwriting.  Collateral is used in the event that the party responsible for repayment fails to make the repayment and is unable to cure it or work out the difference with the bank.  In the case of depositors, the collateral is often viewed as the full faith and credit of the United States government as expressed by the bank’s membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  For borrowers collateral refers to property which they pledge can be used or sold to satisfy obligation to repay the loan.  Normally banks send one or even two or three appraisers to visit real estate which is intended to be used as collateral.  The standard practice lenders used was to apply the lower appraisals as the basis for the maximum amount that they would lend.  The banks understood that the higher appraisals represented a higher risk that they would lose money in the event that the borrower failed to repay the loan and property values declined.  This principal was also used for hundreds of years until the 1990s when the banks, operating under the new business model described above, started to run out of people who could serve as borrowers.  Since the deposits (purchases of mortgage bonds) were pouring in, the banks either had to return the deposits or use a portion of the deposits to fund mortgages regardless of the quality of the mortgage, the cash, the collateral, the capacity or any other indicator that a normal reasonable business person would use.  The solution was to inflate the appraisals of the real estate by presenting appraisers with “an offer they couldn’t refuse”.  Either the appraiser came in with an appraisal of the real property at least $20,000 above the price being used in the contract or the appraiser would never work again.  By inflating the appraisals the banks were able to move more money and of course “earn” more fees and profits. 

The appraisals were the weakest link in the false scheme of securitization launched by the banks and still barely understood by regulators.  As the number of potential borrowers dwindled and even with the help of developers raising their prices by as much as 20% per month the appearance of a rising market collapsed in the absence of any more buyers.

Since all the banks involved were holding an Ace High Straight Flush, they were able to place bets using insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements wherein a movement of as little as 8% in the value of a pool would result in the collapse of the entire pool.  This created the appearance of losses to the banks which they falsely presented to the U.S. government as a threat to the financial system and the financial security of the United States.  Having succeeded in terrorizing the executive and legislative branches and the Federal Reserve system, the banks realized that they still had a new revenue generator.  By manufacturing additional losses the government or the Federal Reserve would fund those losses under the mistaken belief that the losses were real and that the country’s future was at stake.  In fact, the country’s future is now at stake because of the perversion of the basic rules of commerce and lending stated above.  The assumption that the economy or the housing market can recover without undoing the fraud perpetrated by the banks is dangerous and false.  It is dangerous because more than 17 trillion dollars in “relief” to the banks has been provided to cover mortgage defaults which are at most estimated at 2.6 trillion.  The advantage given to the megabanks who accepted this surplus “aid” has made it difficult for community banks and credit unions to operate or compete.   The assumption is false because there is literally not enough money in the world to accomplish the dual objectives of allowing the banks to keep their ill gotten gains and providing the necessary stimulus and rebuilding of our physical and educational infrastructure.  

The simple solution that is growing more and more complex is the only way that the U.S. can recover.  With the same effort that it took in 1941 to convert an isolationist largely unarmed United States to the most formidable military power on the planet, the banks who perpetrated this fraud should be treated as terrorists with nothing less than unconditional surrender as the outcome.  The remaining 7,000 community banks and credit unions together with the existing infrastructure for electronic funds transfer will easily allow the rest of the banking community to resume normal activity and provide the capital needed for a starving economy. 

See article:  www.kcmblog.com/2012/04/05/the-4-cs-of-mortgage-underwriting-2

BANKS CONTINUE TO HOLD NEARLY 1 MILLION HOMES AS SALES AND PRICES CONTINUE TO PLUMMET

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STATED INCOME, STATED ASSETS (SISA) NO DOC ASSETS AND INCOME FOR THE BANKS: AS FALSE AS IT ALWAYS WAS

EDITOR’S COMMENT: DICK DURBIN said it when the democratically controlled senate and house refused to even inquire about the real nature of the securitization illusion — “The Banks own the place.” He was of course referring to the incredible amount of influence of the banking lobby fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash and other benefits. Now SISA — Stated Income, Stated Assets — has acquired new meaning, this time for the banks, who are using it as fraudulently as the mortgage brokers who “corrected” homeowner applications for loans to reflect the amount of income and assets needed to justify the underwriting of the loan. Now it means to justify the stock prices, management jobs, and business viability of broken banks.

And with nearly 1 million homes “owned” by the banks, the housing market looks weaker indefinitely. How could these prices and the prospect of lower prices be possible? It’s easy. The whole thing is based upon a false premise that nobody wants to face — the banks do NOT own those properties. They are legally owned by the homeowners who were the subject of false and fabricated foreclosures initiated by non-creditors with no skin in the game except the desire to get a “free house.” They never loaned the money, they never bought the “loans,” the loans were defective from the start, and they never had the right to purchase those homes with a non-cash (credit) bid at auction because the auction was fraudulently obtained and the credit bid was devoid of any reality.

THOSE HOMES ARE STILL OWNED BY THE HOMEOWNERS WHO THINK THEY WERE FORECLOSED AND THAT THE MATTER IS OVER. THE SITUATION PERSISTS BECAUSE HOMEOWNERS, LAWYERS AND JUDGES PERSIST IN THE BELIEF THAT IT “JUST CAN’T BE SO.”

Ask any real estate professional and they won’t be able to come up with a fundamental reason why the housing market went down this far nor why the prospects for the housing market are still lower. Ask them or any economist, and the answer slowly emerges by process of elimination — there is no fundamental reason for this situation because it isn’t real. You want the economy to recover? Remove the illusion of securitization of loans, unless they are proven under existing laws and existing rules of evidence, and then the unthinkable happens — the wealth that was stolen from the American middle class turns out not to have been stolen after all — the victim is simply giving up what was stolen because the victim is convinced the scam was real.

Let’s see what happens as the Title Companies start to tackle this issue because they have potential liability in the trillions, which is money they don’t have. The simplest way out for them is to state that there is no claim against the title policy because the loss never occurred. If the homeowner still owns the house then who is to be paid. If the “lender” at closing (pretender lender” never loaned any money, there is no loss. If any other named payee on the insurance policy lost no money, then the title policy does not come into play.

If you want a stimulus to the economy, the just tell the truth. The mortgages are fatally defective, they were never transferred, they were never intended to be transferred, and borrowers’ undocumented obligations have long since been extinguished by the feeding frenzy on Wall Street from the money advanced by investors and paid by borrowers, federal bailouts, insurance, credit default swaps, guarantees and settlements. Check it out yourself. This sounds crazy because it is — it is crazy-making by the world’s largest financial institutions (on paper) when in fact they are not large and not even viable if their auditors would just do their job and tell the truth.

How far will this go, dragging housing prices and the the prospects of recovery down with them? It looks like the answer is it will go as far as we let them.

May 22, 2011

As Lenders Hold Homes in Foreclosure, Sales Are Hurt

By

EL MIRAGE, Ariz. — The nation’s biggest banks and mortgage lenders have steadily amassed real estate empires, acquiring a glut of foreclosed homes that threatens to deepen the housing slump and create a further drag on the economic recovery.

All told, they own more than 872,000 homes as a result of the groundswell in foreclosures, almost twice as many as when the financial crisis began in 2007, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate data provider. In addition, they are in the process of foreclosing on an additional one million homes and are poised to take possession of several million more in the years ahead.

Five years after the housing market started teetering, economists now worry that the rise in lender-owned homes could create another vicious circle, in which the growing inventory of distressed property further depresses home values and leads to even more distressed sales. With the spring home-selling season under way, real estate prices have been declining across the country in recent months.

“It remains a heavy weight on the banking system,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “Housing prices are falling, and they are going to fall some more.”

Over all, economists project that it would take about three years for lenders to sell their backlog of foreclosed homes. As a result, home values nationally could fall 5 percent by the end of 2011, according to Moody’s, and rise only modestly over the following year. Regions that were hardest hit by the housing collapse and recession could take even longer to recover — dealing yet another blow to a still-struggling economy.

Although sales have picked up a bit in the last few weeks, banks and other lenders remain overwhelmed by the wave of foreclosures. In Atlanta, lenders are repossessing eight homes for each distressed home they sell, according to March data from RealtyTrac. In Minneapolis, they are bringing in at least six foreclosed homes for each they sell, and in once-hot markets like Chicago and Miami, the ratio still hovers close to two to one.

Before the housing implosion, the inflow and outflow figures were typically one-to-one.

The reasons for the backlog include inadequate staffs and delays imposed by the lenders because of investigations into foreclosure practices. The pileup could lead to $40 billion in additional losses for banks and other lenders as they sell houses at steep discounts over the next two years, according to Trepp, a real estate research firm.

“These shops are under siege; it’s just a tsunami of stuff coming in,” said Taj Bindra, who oversaw Washington Mutual’s servicing unit from 2004 to 2006 and now advises financial institutions on risk management. “Lenders have a strong incentive to clear out inventory in a controlled and timely manner, but if you had problems on the front end of the foreclosure process, it should be no surprise you are having problems on the back end.”

A drive through the sprawling subdivisions outside Phoenix shows the ravages of the real estate collapse. Here in this working-class neighborhood of El Mirage, northwest of Phoenix, rows of small stucco homes sprouted up during the boom. Now block after block is pockmarked by properties with overgrown shrubs, weeds and foreclosure notices tacked to the doors. About 116 lender-owned homes are on the market or under contract in El Mirage, according to local real estate listings.

But that’s just a small fraction of what is to come. An additional 491 houses are either sitting in the lenders’ inventory or are in the foreclosure process. On average, homes in El Mirage sell for $65,300, down 75 percent from the height of the boom in July 2006, according to the Cromford Report, a Phoenix-area real estate data provider. Real estate agents and market analysts say those ultra-cheap prices have recently started attracting first-time buyers as well as investors looking for several properties at once.

Lenders have also been more willing to let distressed borrowers sidestep foreclosure by selling homes for a loss. That has accelerated the pace of sales in the area and even caused prices to slowly rise in the last two months, but realty agents worry about all the distressed homes that are coming down the pike.

“My biggest fear right now is that the supply has been artificially restricted,” said Jayson Meyerovitz, a local broker. “They can’t just sit there forever. If so many houses hit the market, what is going to happen then?”

The major lenders say they are not deliberately holding back any foreclosed homes. They say that a long sales process can stigmatize a property and ratchet up maintenance and other costs. But they also do not want to unload properties in a fire sale.

“If we are out there undercutting prices, we are contributing to the downward spiral in market values,” said Eric Will, who oversees distressed home sales for Freddie Mac. “We want to make sure we are helping stabilize communities.”

The biggest reason for the backlog is that it takes longer to sell foreclosed homes, currently an average of 176 days — and that’s after the 400 days it takes for lenders to foreclose. After drawing government scrutiny over improper foreclosures practices last fall, many big lenders have slowed their operations in order to check the paperwork, and in two dozen or so states they halted them for months.

Conscious of their image, many lenders have recently started telling real estate agents to be more lenient to renters who happen to live in a foreclosed home and give them extra time to move out before changing the locks.

“Wells Fargo has sent me back knocking on doors two or three times, offering to give renters money if they cooperate with us,” said Claude A. Worrell, a longtime real estate agent from Minneapolis who specializes in selling bank-owned property. “It’s a lot different than it used to be.”

Realty agents and buyers say the lenders are simply overwhelmed. Just as lenders were ill-prepared to handle the flood of foreclosures, they do not have the staff and infrastructure to manage and sell this much property.

Most of the major lenders outsourced almost every part of the process, be it sales or repairs. Some agents complain that lender-owned home listings are routinely out of date, that properties are overpriced by as much as 10 percent, and that lenders take days or longer to accept an offer.

The silver lining for home lenders, however, is that the number of new foreclosures and recent borrowers falling behind on their payments by three months or longer is shrinking.

“If they are able to manage through the next 12 to 18 months,” said Mr. Zandi, the Moody’s Analytics economist, “they will be in really good shape.”

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