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Fannie, Freddie One Less Foreclosure Baron, Ditch Stern

Fannie, Freddie One Less Foreclosure Baron, Ditch Stern

Mother Jones has dropped an exclusive today and reports Fannie, Freddie Ditch Foreclosure King David J. Stern’s firm.

Here is an excerpt by Andy Kroll:

Not only have Fannie and Freddie suspended foreclosure referrals to Stern’s firm, the Wall Street Journal reported, but two major banks—Citigroup and GMAC—have also stopped sending cases to the firm, which is under investigation by the Florida attorney general Bill McCollum. “Pending the outcome of the AG’s investigation, Citi is not referring new matters to this firm,” read a company statement.

Continue reading…Mother Jones

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© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in CitiGroup, fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, Freddie Mac, GMAC, MERS, MERSCORP, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC.1 Comment

BLOOMBERG: Citigroup Stops Using Foreclosure Law Firm Under Investigation in Florida

BLOOMBERG: Citigroup Stops Using Foreclosure Law Firm Under Investigation in Florida

By Dakin Campbell and Donal Griffin – Oct 12, 2010 12:00 AM ET

Citigroup Inc. said it stopped steering foreclosure work to a Florida law firm whose court filings to support home seizures are under investigation by the state’s attorney general.

The bank, which is proceeding with seizures as some rivals stop to recheck documents, had used the Law Offices of David J. Stern PA. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Aug. 10 it is examining whether Stern and two other firms filed “improper documentation” with the state’s courts to speed proceedings.

“Pending the outcome of the AG’s investigation, Citi is not referring new matters to this firm,” the New York-based bank said in an e-mailed statement. Citigroup services loans for government-sponsored entities, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Stern “was approved by the GSEs during the time in which it was retained by Citi,” the bank said.

Lawmakers, attorneys general and consumer groups have pressed mortgage firms to follow Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender, which last week suspended all foreclosures to check whether faulty documents were used to confiscate homes. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC Mortgage unit froze seizures or evictions in Florida and 22 other states. Citigroup said last week it doesn’t plan to join them.

McCollum’s office “hasn’t made any charges or allegations of fault,” said Jeffrey Tew, an outside attorney for Plantation, Florida-based Stern, who declined to discuss its work for Citigroup. “I believe they’re a client. I can’t go into any details.”

Continue reading…BLOOMBERG

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© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in assignment of mortgage, CitiGroup, djsp enterprises, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, forgery, investigation, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., notary fraud0 Comments

Congress Needs To ZERO IN On A “Common Thread” To Fannie, Freddie Mortgage Crisis

Congress Needs To ZERO IN On A “Common Thread” To Fannie, Freddie Mortgage Crisis

Anyone can see the “Fiction” that was set into place from all the institutions in this article below. Each one of these named parties as a shareholder utilizes Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., yet Washington never mentions this MERS device.

All this talk of false and misleading loans blah blah blah …I mean grab the bull by it’s nuts and put these criminals behind bars. Not just seek refunds! This clean up should also seek Racketeering Indictments.

Congress Seeks Fannie, Freddie Exit as Banks Eat Soured Loans

By Dawn Kopecki – Sep 15, 2010 1:00 AM ET

U.S. lawmakers will grapple today with how to end the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after two years and almost $150 billion, and who pays the bill for bad loans made during the housing boom.

Regulators who seized control of the two mortgage lenders in 2008 are under pressure to stem losses for taxpayers and recoup money from banks that sold faulty loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — all without hindering the housing market’s recovery. Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr and Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, are scheduled to testify today on their progress at the House Financial Services Committee.

The Obama administration and Congress are weighing the future of the two companies as part of an overhaul of the U.S. housing finance system. Fannie Mae, based in Washington, and Freddie Mac, based in McLean, Virginia, lost $166 billion on guarantees of single-family mortgages from the end of 2007 through the second quarter, according to the FHFA. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has promised a comprehensive proposal by early next year.

“The biggest problem in the economy is that we have three or four million too many homes,” said Chris Kotowski, a banking analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. The solution “will take another two or three years to work out until we sop up the excess supply,” Kotowski said.

Loan Clean-Up

The clean-up includes seeking refunds from lenders who sold loans based on false or misleading information, and the two government-backed firms aren’t the only ones demanding buybacks. The Federal Reserve, private mortgage investors and mortgage insurers are combing through loan documents for faulty appraisals, inflated borrower incomes and missing documentation that would support a refund request.

As of the end of the second quarter 2010, Fannie Mae had $4.7 billion in outstanding repurchase requests, and Freddie Mac had $6.4 billion in outstanding repurchase requests. DeMarco said in his prepared testimony that outstanding repurchase requests continue to be “of concern.”

Continue reading…BLOOMBERG

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© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, chain in title, CitiGroup, concealment, congress, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, Credit Suisse, fannie mae, federal reserve board, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, investigation, MERS, MERSCORP, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., RICO, scam, servicers, settlement, stopforeclosurefraud.com, sub-prime, trustee, Trusts, us bank, Wall Street2 Comments

10 bailed-out banks spent $16.3M lobbying in 1H

10 bailed-out banks spent $16.3M lobbying in 1H

mostly “MERS SHAREHOLDERS”

Top 10 bailed-out banks spent over $16 million in 2010 first half lobbying on financial reform

Eileen Aj Connelly, AP Business Writer, On Tuesday August 31, 2010, 7:00 pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — The 10 banks that received the most bailout aid during the financial crisis spent over $16 million on lobbying efforts in the first half of 2010, as the debate over financial regulatory reform reached its height.

Disclosure reports show that the banks that got the most government help in late 2008 and early 2009 also invested the most to influence members of Congress, the White House, the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and a long list of federal agencies as new rules were enacted governing Wall Street and the nation’s financial system.

“I’m not shocked that they spent that much money because I saw them every day,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, who said more than 2,000 lobbyists worked on the financial reform bill.

The sweeping law signed by President Barack Obama in July topped 2,300 pages, and outlined broad rules for issues ranging from derivatives trading to the fees merchants are charged for processing credit and debit card transactions. It also covered the creation of a consumer financial protection bureau. Banks are continuing efforts to try to shape many of the new rules that are still being finalized.

The $16.32 million spent in the first half of 2010 was 26 percent higher than the combined $12.94 million they spent in the first half of 2009.

In prior years, the spending crept up at a much slower pace: 2009’s total was about 2 percent higher than the nearly $12.7 million spent in the first half of 2008. And that was only 3.7 percent above the $12.25 million spent in the first half of 2007.

Leading the pack this year was JPMorgan Chase & Co., which spent $1.52 million on lobbying in the second quarter, on top of $1.51 million in the first quarter of 2010, for a total of $3.03 million, according to disclosure reports filed with the House of Representatives clerk’s office.

Citigroup Inc., the largest bank recipient of government funds during the crisis in late 2008 and early 2009, was second. The New York-based bank spend $1.47 million on lobbyists in the second quarter, after spending $1.31 million in the first quarter for a total of $2.78 million.

And Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was third, with $1.58 million spent in the second quarter, on top of $1.19 million in the first quarter of 2010.

All three banks declined to comment on their lobbying spending, which went toward hiring advocates to discuss the legislation with lawmakers and regulators. Lobbying figures do not include any campaign contributions that banks or their employees might also have made.

Mierzwinski said the big win for consumers was the financial protection bureau, which banks tried to remove from the law. The financial industry was in a weakened position during the debate, however, because of public anger over the economy’s collapse and publicity over issues like Wall Street bonuses. Nevertheless, banks were rewarded for their efforts, he said. “They did manage to make changes.”

Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. both also spent more than $2 million in the first half of the year. Spending far less were PNC Bank, US Bancorp, Capital One Financial Corp. and Regions Financial Corp. The American Bankers Association, the main trade group for the industry, also lobbied heavily, spending $4.2 million in the first half of 2010.

Consumer advocacy groups had their own lobbyists working the Capitol’s halls during the finance reform debate as well, but their spending was dwarfed by the banks — a total of $792,000 in the first half of the year for four of the top organizations. The Center for Responsible Lending topped the list, with $335,000 spent in the first six months of the year. U.S. PIRG tallied $227,000. The Consumers Union listed $150,000 and The Consumer Federation of America spent $80,000.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the heavy spending in part reflects the number of people needed to discuss issues with 535 members of Congress. One sentence in a law regulating the financial markets can have a big impact on a company’s profit, she noted, and the industry made sure they had experts on hand to discuss every aspect with lawmakers.

“We’re talking billions,” Sloan said. “So the lobbying money is the most effective money you’ll spend.”

“It’s not that I don’t think that many would have preferred a different outcome,” she added. “But I doubt that any of those banks didn’t think it was worth it to have those lobbyists.”

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, capital one, CitiGroup, concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, Economy, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, geithner, goldman sachs, MERS, MERSCORP, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, scam, servicers, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, sub-prime0 Comments

Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

ProPublica

Over the last two years of the housing bubble, Wall Street bankers perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.

Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products, the banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and huge bonuses:

They created fake demand.

A ProPublica analysis shows for the first time the extent to which banks — primarily Merrill Lynch, but also Citigroup, UBS and others — bought their own products and cranked up an assembly line that otherwise should have flagged.

The products they were buying and selling were at the heart of the 2008 meltdown — collections of mortgage bonds known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs.

As the housing boom began to slow in mid-2006, investors became skittish about the riskier parts of those investments. So the banks created — and ultimately provided most of the money for — new CDOs. Those new CDOs bought the hard-to-sell pieces of the original CDOs. The result was a daisy chain [1] that solved one problem but created another: Each new CDO had its own risky pieces. Banks created yet other CDOs to buy those.

Individual instances of these questionable trades have been reported before, but ProPublica’s investigation shows that by late 2006 they became a common industry practice.

Source: Thetica SystemsSource: Thetica Systems

An analysis by research firm Thetica Systems, commissioned by ProPublica, shows that in the last years of the boom, CDOs had become the dominant purchaser of key, risky parts of other CDOs, largely replacing real investors like pension funds. By 2007, 67 percent of those slices were bought by other CDOs, up from 36 percent just three years earlier. The banks often orchestrated these purchases. In the last two years of the boom, nearly half of all CDOs sponsored by market leader Merrill Lynch bought significant portions of other Merrill CDOs [2].ProPublica also found 85 instances during 2006 and 2007 in which two CDOs bought pieces of each other’s unsold inventory. These trades, which involved $107 billion worth of CDOs, underscore the extent to which the market lacked real buyers. Often the CDOs that swapped purchases closed within days of each other, the analysis shows.

There were supposed to be protections against this sort of abuse. While banks provided the blueprint for the CDOs and marketed them, they typically selected independent managers who chose the specific bonds to go inside them. The managers had a legal obligation to do what was best for the CDO. They were paid by the CDO, not the bank, and were supposed to serve as a bulwark against self-dealing by the banks, which had the fullest understanding of the complex and lightly regulated mortgage bonds.

It rarely worked out that way. The managers were beholden to the banks that sent them the business. On a billion-dollar deal, managers could earn a million dollars in fees, with little risk. Some small firms did several billion dollars of CDOs in a matter of months.

“All these banks for years were spawning trading partners,” says a former executive from Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, a major insurer of the CDO market. “You don’t have a trading partner? Create one.”

The executive, like most of the dozens of people ProPublica spoke with about the inner workings of the market at the time, asked not to be named out of fear of being sucked into ongoing investigations or because they are involved in civil litigation.

Keeping the assembly line going had a wealth of short-term advantages for the banks. Fees rolled in. A typical CDO could net the bank that created it between $5 million and $10 million — about half of which usually ended up as employee bonuses. Indeed, Wall Street awarded record bonuses in 2006, a hefty chunk of which came from the CDO business.

The self-dealing super-charged the market for CDOs, enticing some less-savvy investors to try their luck. Crucially, such deals maintained the value of mortgage bonds at a time when the lack of buyers should have driven their prices down.

But the strategy of speeding up the assembly line had devastating consequences for homeowners, the banks themselves and, ultimately, the global economy. Because of Wall Street’s machinations, more mortgages had been granted to ever-shakier borrowers. The results can now be seen in foreclosed houses across America.

The incestuous trading also made the CDOs more intertwined and thus fragile, accelerating their decline in value that began in the fall of 2007 and deepened over the next year. Most are now worth pennies on the dollar. Nearly half of the nearly trillion dollars in losses to the global banking system came from CDOs, losses ultimately absorbed by taxpayers and investors around the world. The banks’ troubles sent the world’s economies into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover.

It remains unclear whether any of this violated laws. The SEC has said [4] that it is actively looking at as many as 50 CDO managers as part of its broad examination of the CDO business’ role in the financial crisis. In particular, the agency is focusing on the relationship between the banks and the managers. The SEC is exploring how deals were structured, if any quid pro quo arrangements existed, and whether banks pressured managers to take bad assets.

The banks declined to directly address ProPublica’s questions. Asked about its relationship with managers and the cross-ownership among its CDOs, Citibank responded with a one-sentence statement:

“It has been widely reported that there are ongoing industry-wide investigations into CDO-related matters and we do not comment on pending investigations.”

None of ProPublica’s questions had mentioned the SEC or pending investigations.

Posed a similar list of questions, Bank of America, which now owns Merrill Lynch, said:

“These are very specific questions regarding individuals who left Merrill Lynch several years ago and a CDO origination business that, due to market conditions, was discontinued by Merrill before Bank of America acquired the company.”

This is the second installment of a ProPublica series about the largely hidden history of the CDO boom and bust. Our first story [5] looked at how one hedge fund helped create at least $40 billion in CDOs as part of a strategy to bet against the market. This story turns the focus on the banks.

Merrill Lynch Pioneers Pervert the Market
By 2004, the housing market was in full swing, and Wall Street bankers flocked to the CDO frenzy. It seemed to be the perfect money machine, and for a time everyone was happy.

Homeowners got easy mortgages. Banks and mortgage companies felt secure lending the money because they could sell the mortgages almost immediately to Wall Street and get back all their cash plus a little extra for their trouble. The investment banks charged massive fees for repackaging the mortgages into fancy financial products. Investors all around the world got to play in the then-phenomenal American housing market.

The mortgages were bundled into bonds, which were in turn combined into CDOs offering varying interest rates and levels of risk.

Investors holding the top tier of a CDO were first in line to get money coming from mortgages. By 2006, some banks often kept this layer, which credit agencies blessed with their highest rating of Triple A.

Buyers of the lower tiers took on more risk and got higher returns. They would be the first to take the hit if homeowners funding the CDO stopped paying their mortgages. (Here’s a video explaining how CDOs worked [6].)

Over time, these risky slices became increasingly hard to sell, posing a problem for the banks. If they remained unsold, the sketchy assets stayed on their books, like rotting inventory. That would require the banks to set aside money to cover any losses. Banks hate doing that because it means the money can’t be loaned out or put to other uses.

Being stuck with the risky portions of CDOs would ultimately lower profits and endanger the whole assembly line.

The banks, notably Merrill and Citibank, solved this problem by greatly expanding what had been a common and accepted practice: CDOs buying small pieces of other CDOs.

Architects of CDOs typically included what they called a “bucket” — which held bits of other CDOs paying higher rates of interest. The idea was to boost overall returns of deals primarily composed of safer assets. In the early days, the bucket was a small portion of an overall CDO.

One pioneer of pushing CDOs to buy CDOs was Merrill Lynch’s Chris Ricciardi, who had been brought to the firm in 2003 to take Merrill to the top of the CDO business. According to former colleagues, Ricciardi’s team cultivated managers, especially smaller firms.

Merrill exercised its leverage over the managers. A strong relationship with Merrill could be the difference between a business that thrived and one that didn’t. The more deals the banks gave a manager, the more money the manager got paid.

As the head of Merrill’s CDO business, Ricciardi also wooed managers with golf outings and dinners. One Merrill executive summed up the overall arrangement: “I’m going to make you rich. You just have to be my bitch.”

But not all managers went for it.

An executive from Trainer Wortham, a CDO manager, recalls a 2005 conversation with Ricciardi. “I wasn’t going to buy other CDOs. Chris said: ‘You don’t get it. You have got to buy other guys’ CDOs to get your deal done. That’s how it works.'” When the manager refused, Ricciardi told him, “‘That’s it. You are not going to get another deal done.'” Trainer Wortham largely withdrew from the market, concerned about the practice and the overheated prices for CDOs.

Ricciardi declined multiple requests to comment.

Merrill CDOs often bought slices of other Merrill deals. This seems to have happened more in the second half of any given year, according to ProPublica’s analysis, though the purchases were still a small portion compared to what would come later. Annual bonuses are based on the deals bankers completed by yearend.

Ricciardi left Merrill Lynch in February 2006. But the machine he put into place not only survived his departure, it became a model for competitors.

As Housing Market Wanes, Self-Dealing Takes Off
By mid-2006, the housing market was on the wane. This was particularly true for subprime mortgages, which were given to borrowers with spotty credit at higher interest rates. Subprime lenders began to fold, in what would become a mass extinction. In the first half of the year, the percentage of subprime borrowers who didn’t even make the first month’s mortgage payment tripled from the previous year.

That made CDO investors like pension funds and insurance companies increasingly nervous. If homeowners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, then the stream of cash to CDOs would dry up. Real “buyers began to shrivel and shrivel,” says Fiachra O’Driscoll, who co-ran Credit Suisse’s CDO business from 2003 to 2008.

Faced with disappearing investor demand, bankers could have wound down the lucrative business and moved on. That’s the way a market is supposed to work. Demand disappears; supply follows. But bankers were making lots of money. And they had amassed warehouses full of CDOs and other mortgage-based assets whose value was going down.

Rather than stop, bankers at Merrill, Citi, UBS and elsewhere kept making CDOs.

The question was: Who would buy them?

The top 80 percent, the less risky layers or so-called “super senior,” were held by the banks themselves. The beauty of owning that supposedly safe top portion was that it required hardly any money be held in reserve.

That left 20 percent, which the banks did not want to keep because it was riskier and required them to set aside reserves to cover any losses. Banks often sold the bottom, riskiest part to hedge funds [5]. That left the middle layer, known on Wall Street as the “mezzanine,” which was sold to new CDOs whose top 80 percent was ultimately owned by … the banks.

“As we got further into 2006, the mezzanine was going into other CDOs,” says Credit Suisse’s O’Driscoll.

This was the daisy chain [1]. On paper, the risky stuff was gone, held by new independent CDOs. In reality, however, the banks were buying their own otherwise unsellable assets.

How could something so seemingly short-sighted have happened?

It’s one of the great mysteries of the crash. Banks have fleets of risk managers to defend against just such reckless behavior. Top executives have maintained that while they suspected that the housing market was cooling, they never imagined the crash. For those doing the deals, the payoff was immediate. The dangers seemed abstract and remote.

The CDO managers played a crucial role. CDOs were so complex that even buyers had a hard time seeing exactly what was in them — making a neutral third party that much more essential.

“When you’re investing in a CDO you are very much putting your faith in the manager,” says Peter Nowell, a former London-based investor for the Royal Bank of Scotland. “The manager is choosing all the bonds that go into the CDO.” (RBS suffered mightily in the global financial meltdown, posting the largest loss in United Kingdom history, and was de facto nationalized by the British government.)

Source: Asset-Backed AlertSource: Asset-Backed Alert

By persuading managers to pick the unsold slices of CDOs, the banks helped keep the market going. “It guaranteed distribution when, quite frankly, there was not a huge market for them,” says Nowell.The counterintuitive result was that even as investors began to vanish, the mortgage CDO market more than doubled from 2005 to 2006, reaching $226 billion, according to the trade publication Asset-Backed Alert.

Citi and Merrill Hand Out Sweetheart Deals
As the CDO market grew, so did the number of CDO management firms, including many small shops that relied on a single bank for most of their business. According to Fitch, the number of CDO managers it rated rose from 89 in July 2006 to 140 in September 2007.

One CDO manager epitomized the devolution of the business, according to numerous industry insiders: a Wall Street veteran named Wing Chau.

Earlier in the decade, Chau had run the CDO department for Maxim Group, a boutique investment firm in New York. Chau had built a profitable business for Maxim based largely on his relationship with Merrill Lynch. In just a few years, Maxim had corralled more than $4 billion worth of assets under management just from Merrill CDOs.

In August 2006, Chau bolted from Maxim to start his own CDO management business, taking several colleagues with him. Chau’s departure gave Merrill, the biggest CDO producer, one more avenue for unsold inventory.

Chau named the firm Harding, after the town in New Jersey where he lived. The CDO market was starting its most profitable stretch ever, and Harding would play a big part. In an eleven-month period, ending in August 2007, Harding managed $13 billion of CDOs, including more than $5 billion from Merrill, and another nearly $5 billion from Citigroup. (Chau would later earn a measure of notoriety for a cameo appearance in Michael Lewis’ bestseller “The Big Short [7],” where he is depicted as a cheerfully feckless “go-to buyer” for Merrill Lynch’s CDO machine.)

Chau had a long-standing friendship with Ken Margolis, who was Merrill’s top CDO salesman under Ricciardi. When Ricciardi left Merrill in 2006, Margolis became a co-head of Merrill’s CDO group. He carried a genial, let’s-just-get-the-deal-done demeanor into his new position. An avid poker player, Margolis told a friend that in a previous job he had stood down a casino owner during a foreclosure negotiation after the owner had threatened to put a fork through his eye.

Chau’s close relationship with Merrill continued. In late 2006, Merrill sublet office space to Chau’s startup in the Merrill tower in Lower Manhattan’s financial district. A Merrill banker, David Moffitt, scheduled visits to Harding for prospective investors in the bank’s CDOs. “It was a nice office,” overlooking New York Harbor, recalls a CDO buyer. “But it did feel a little weird that it was Merrill’s building,” he said.

Moffitt did not respond to requests for comment.

Under Margolis, other small managers with meager track records were also suddenly handling CDOs valued at as much as $2 billion. Margolis declined to answer any questions about his own involvement in these matters.

A Wall Street Journal article [8] ($) from late 2007, one of the first of its kind, described how Margolis worked with one inexperienced CDO manager called NIR on a CDO named Norma, in the spring of that year. The Long Island-based NIR made about $1.5 million a year for managing Norma, a CDO that imploded.

“NIR’s collateral management business had arisen from efforts by Merrill Lynch to assemble a stable of captive small firms to manage its CDOs that would be beholden to Merrill Lynch on account of the business it funneled to them,” alleged a lawsuit filed in New York state court against Merrill over Norma that was settled quietly after the plaintiffs received internal Merrill documents.

NIR declined to comment.

Banks had a variety of ways to influence managers’ behavior.

Some of the few outside investors remaining in the market believed that the manager would do a better job if he owned a small slice of the CDO he was managing. That way, the manager would have more incentive to manage the investment well, since he, too, was an investor. But small management firms rarely had money to invest. Some banks solved this problem by advancing money to managers such as Harding.

Chau’s group managed two Citigroup CDOs — 888 Tactical Fund and Jupiter High-Grade VII — in which the bank loaned Harding money to buy risky pieces of the deal. The loans would be paid back out of the fees the managers took from the CDO and its investors. The loans were disclosed to investors in a few sentences among the hundreds of pages of legalese accompanying the deals.

In response to ProPublica’s questions, Chau’s lawyer said, “Harding Advisory’s dealings with investment banks were proper and fully disclosed.”

Citigroup made similar deals with other managers. The bank lent money to a manager called Vanderbilt Capital Advisors for its Armitage CDO, completed in March 2007.

Vanderbilt declined to comment. It couldn’t be learned how much money Citigroup loaned or whether it was ever repaid.

Yet again banks had masked their true stakes in CDO. Banks were lending money to CDO managers so they could buy the banks’ dodgy assets. If the managers couldn’t pay the loans back — and most were thinly capitalized — the banks were on the hook for even more losses when the CDO business collapsed.

Goldman, Merrill and Others Get Tough
When the housing market deteriorated, banks took advantage of a little-used power they had over managers.

The way CDOs are put together, there is a brief period when the bonds picked by managers sit on the banks’ balance sheets. Because the value of such assets can fall, banks reserved the right to overrule managers’ selections.

According to numerous bankers, managers and investors, banks rarely wielded that veto until late 2006, after which it became common. Merrill was in the lead.

“I would go to Merrill and tell them that I wanted to buy, say, a Citi bond,” recalls a CDO manager. “They would say ‘no.’ I would suggest a UBS bond, they would say ‘no.’ Eventually, you got the joke.” Managers could choose assets to put into their CDOs but they had to come from Merrill CDOs. One rival investment banker says Merrill treated CDO managers the way Henry Ford treated his Model T customers: You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.

Once, Merrill’s Ken Margolis pushed a manager to buy a CDO slice for a Merrill-produced CDO called Port Jackson that was completed in the beginning of 2007: “‘You don’t have to buy the deal but you are crazy if you don’t because of your business,'” an executive at the management firm recalls Margolis telling him. “‘We have a big pipeline and only so many more mandates to give you.’ You got the message.” In other words: Take our stuff and we’ll send you more business. If not, forget it.

Margolis declined to comment on the incident.

“All the managers complained about it,” recalls O’Driscoll, the former Credit Suisse banker who competed with other investment banks to put deals together and market them. But “they were indentured slaves.” O’Driscoll recalls managers grumbling that Merrill in particular told them “what to buy and when to buy it.”

Other big CDO-producing banks quickly adopted the practice.

A little-noticed document released this year during a congressional investigation into Goldman Sachs’ CDO business reveals that bank’s thinking. The firm wrote a November 2006 internal memorandum [9] about a CDO called Timberwolf, managed by Greywolf, a small manager headed by ex-Goldman bankers. In a section headed “Reasons To Pursue,” the authors touted that “Goldman is approving every asset” that will end up in the CDO. What the bank intended to do with that approval power is clear from the memo: “We expect that a significant portion of the portfolio by closing will come from Goldman’s offerings.”

When asked to comment whether Goldman’s memo demonstrates that it had effective control over the asset selection process and that Greywolf was not in fact an independent manager, the bank responded: “Greywolf was an experienced, independent manager and made its own decisions about what reference assets to include. The securities included in Timberwolf were fully disclosed to the professional investors who invested in the transaction.”

Greywolf declined to comment. One of the investors, Basis Capital of Australia, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against Goldman over the deal. The bank maintains the lawsuit is without merit.

By March 2007, the housing market’s signals were flashing red. Existing home sales plunged at the fastest rate in almost 20 years. Foreclosures were on the rise. And yet, to CDO buyer Peter Nowell’s surprise, banks continued to churn out CDOs.

“We were pulling back. We couldn’t find anything safe enough,” says Nowell. “We were amazed that April through June they were still printing deals. We thought things were over.”

Instead, the CDO machine was in overdrive. Wall Street produced $70 billion in mortgage CDOs in the first quarter of the year.

Many shareholder lawsuits battling their way through the court system today focus on this period of the CDO market. They allege that the banks were using the sales of CDOs to other CDOs to prop up prices and hide their losses.

“Citi’s CDO operations during late 2006 and 2007 functioned largely to sell CDOs to yet newer CDOs created by Citi to house them,” charges a pending shareholder lawsuit against the bank that was filed in federal court in Manhattan in February 2009. “Citigroup concocted a scheme whereby it repackaged many of these investments into other freshly-baked vehicles to avoid incurring a loss.”

Citigroup described the allegations as “irrational,” saying the bank’s executives would never knowingly take actions that would lead to “catastrophic losses.”

In the Hall of Mirrors, Myopic Rating Agencies
The portion of CDOs owned by other CDOs grew right alongside the market. What had been 5 percent of CDOs (remember the “bucket”) now came to constitute as much as 30 or 40 percent of new CDOs. (Wall Street also rolled out CDOs that were almost entirely made up of CDOs, called CDO squareds [10].)

The ever-expanding bucket provided new opportunities for incestuous trades.

It worked like this: A CDO would buy a piece of another CDO, which then returned the favor. The transactions moved both CDOs closer to completion, when bankers and managers would receive their fees.

Source: Thetica SystemsSource: Thetica Systems

ProPublica’s analysis shows that in the final two years of the business, CDOs with cross-ownership amounted to about one-fifth of the market, about $107 billion.Here’s an example from early May 2007:

  • A CDO called Jupiter VI bought a piece of a CDO called Tazlina II.
  • Tazlina II bought a piece of Jupiter VI.

Both Jupiter VI and Tazlina II were created by Merrill and were completed within a week of each other. Both were managed by small firms that did significant business with Merrill: Jupiter by Wing Chau’s Harding, and Tazlina by Terwin Advisors. Chau did not respond to questions about this deal. Terwin Advisors could not reached.

Just a few weeks earlier, CDO managers completed a comparable swap between Jupiter VI and another Merrill CDO called Forge 1.

Forge has its own intriguing history. It was the only deal done by a tiny manager of the same name based in Tampa, Fla. The firm was started less than a year earlier by several former Wall Street executives with mortgage experience. It received seed money from Bryan Zwan, who in 2001 settled an SEC civil lawsuit over his company’s accounting problems in a federal court in Florida. Zwan and Forge executives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

After seemingly coming out of nowhere, Forge won the right to manage a $1.5 billion Merrill CDO. That earned Forge a visit from the rating agency Moody’s.

“We just wanted to make sure that they actually existed,” says a former Moody’s executive. The rating agency saw that the group had an office near the airport and expertise to do the job.

Rating agencies regularly did such research on managers, but failed to ask more fundamental questions. The credit ratings agencies “did heavy, heavy due diligence on managers but they were looking for the wrong things: how you processed a ticket or how your surveillance systems worked,” says an executive at a CDO manager. “They didn’t check whether you were buying good bonds.”

One Forge employee recalled in a recent interview that he was amazed Merrill had been able to find buyers so quickly. “They were able to sell all the tranches” — slices of the CDO — “in a fairly rapid period of time,” said Rod Jensen, a former research analyst for Forge.

Forge achieved this feat because Merrill sold the slices to other CDOs, many linked to Merrill.

The ProPublica analysis shows that two Merrill CDOs, Maxim II and West Trade III, each bought pieces of Forge. Small managers oversaw both deals.

Forge, in turn, was filled with detritus from Merrill. Eighty-two percent of the CDO bonds owned by Forge came from other Merrill deals.

Citigroup did its own version of the shuffle, as these three CDOs demonstrate:

  • A CDO called Octonion bought some of Adams Square Funding II.
  • • Adams Square II bought a piece of Octonion.
  • • A third CDO, Class V Funding III, also bought some of Octonion.
  • • Octonion, in turn, bought a piece of Class V Funding III.

All of these Citi deals were completed within days of each other. Wing Chau was once again a central player. His firm managed Octonion. The other two were managed by a unit of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Not all cross-ownership deals were consummated.

In spring 2007, Deutsche Bank was creating a CDO and found a manager that wanted to take a piece of it. The manager was overseeing a CDO that Merrill was assembling. Merrill blocked the manager from putting the Deutsche bonds into the Merrill CDO. A former Deutsche Bank banker says that when Deutsche Bank complained to Andy Phelps, a Merrill CDO executive, Phelps offered a quid pro quo: If Deutsche was willing to have the manager of its CDO buy some Merrill bonds, Merrill would stop blocking the purchase. Phelps declined to comment.

The Deutsche banker, who says its managers were independent, recalls being shocked: “We said we don’t control what people buy in their deals.” The swap didn’t happen.

The Missing Regulators and the Aftermath
In September 2007, as the market finally started to catch up with Merrill Lynch, Ken Margolis left the firm to join Wing Chau at Harding.

Chau and Margolis circulated a marketing plan for a new hedge fund to prospective investors touting their expertise in how CDOs were made and what was in them. The fund proposed to buy failed CDOs — at bargain basement prices. In the end, Margolis and Chau couldn’t make the business work and dropped the idea.

Why didn’t regulators intervene during the boom to stop the self-dealing that had permeated the CDO market?

No one agency had authority over the whole business. Since the business came and went in just a few years, it may have been too much to expect even assertive regulators to comprehend what was happening in time to stop it.

While the financial regulatory bill passed by Congress in July creates more oversight powers, it’s unclear whether regulators have sufficient tools to prevent a replay of the debacle.

In just two years, the CDO market had cut a swath of destruction. Partly because CDOs had bought so many pieces of each other, they collapsed in unison. Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, the biggest perpetrators of the self-dealing, were among the biggest losers. Merrill lost about $26 billion on mortgage CDOs and Citigroup about $34 billion.

Additional reporting by Kitty Bennett, Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Lisa Schwartz and Karen Weise.


© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, cdo, citi, CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, Credit Suisse, deutsche bank, Economy, goldman sachs, investigation, Merrill Lynch, racketeering, RICO, rmbs, stock, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, trade secrets, Wall Street0 Comments

Judge rejects Citigroup’s $75 million settlement with SEC

Judge rejects Citigroup’s $75 million settlement with SEC

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 16, 2010; 7:32 PM

A federal judge on Monday refused to accept a $75 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup, the second time in a year that the agency’s attempt to sanction a major bank was foiled by a judge with questions about the appropriateness of the agreement.

Judge Ellen S. Huvelle of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia raised questions during a hearing Monday about why the SEC chose to penalize Citigroup financially when it’s the company’s shareholders who will ultimately bear the price of the sanction, according to lawyers who were present. She also asked why the agency decided to charge only two executives with wrongdoing when other more senior executives were involved with Citigroup’s actions, the lawyers said.

Huvelle demanded more information from SEC and Citigroup and scheduled another hearing for Sept. 24.

Continue Reading…Washington Post

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Posted in CitiGroup, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, mbs, reversed court decision, scam, securitization, settlement1 Comment

WALL STREET FINES: “LARGE PONZI SCHEME”

WALL STREET FINES: “LARGE PONZI SCHEME”

CONGRESS IS COVERING UP! SHAM…SCANDAL!

Janet Tavakoli of Tavakoli Structured Finance tells what she thinks of recent fines the SEC has imposed on Wall Street giants and where she would like future investigations take place.

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bogus, CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, goldman sachs, mbs, originator, Real Estate, S.E.C., scam, securitization, servicers, settlement, sub-prime1 Comment

Citi to pay $73 million for misleading investors

Citi to pay $73 million for misleading investors

By David Ellis, staff writer July 29, 2010: 3:57 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Citigroup said Thursday it would pay $73 million to settle charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the bank, as well as two of its executives, misled investors about the company’s exposure to the subprime mortgage market.

Wall Street’s top regulator said Citigroup repeatedly made misleading statements in investor presentations and in public filings about the actual size of assets it controlled that were backed by subprime mortgages.

Between July and mid-October 2007, the company maintained its holdings of what have now been dubbed “toxic assets”, stood at $13 billion, when in fact the number was closer to $50 billion, according to the SEC.

“The rules of financial disclosure are simple — if you choose to speak, speak in full and not in half-truths,” Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.

Continue reading….CNN

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Posted in citi, CitiGroup, concealment, settlement, sub-prime1 Comment

CLASS ACTION Amended complaint against Countrywide et al Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities

CLASS ACTION Amended complaint against Countrywide et al Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities

Other defendants in the case, aside from Countrywide, several of its former top executives, and Bank of America, include 16 underwriters of more than $350 billion in Countrywide securities, among them J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Bear Stearns, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

July 15, 2010, 8:00 a.m.

False and Misleading Offering Documents Detailed in Class Action Lawsuit Against Countrywide Financial

Cohen Milstein Files Amended Consolidated Complaint in Case Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed an Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint this week in its landmark litigation against Countrywide Financial Corporation and other underwriter defendants who were prominently involved in the failure of mortgage-backed securities over the last several years.

Countrywide, since acquired by Bank of America, was one of the largest and most controversial institutions involved in mortgage-backed securities. Other defendants in the case, aside from Countrywide, several of its former top executives, and Bank of America, include 16 underwriters of more than $350 billion in Countrywide securities, among them J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Bear Stearns, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

Cohen Milstein is Lead Counsel for the Class and Counsel for the Lead Plaintiff, the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, as well as the Oregon Public Employees’ Retirement System and Orange County Employees’ Retirement System. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church is also named as a plaintiff in the litigation.

“Amidst all this high finance, it’s too easy to lose sight of the fact that pension funds invested heavily in these mortgage-backed securities and so retirees are the real victims here,” commented Steve Toll, Managing Partner at Cohen Milstein and co-chair of its Securities Fraud/Investor Protection practice group.

In the amended complaint, the Plaintiffs further buttress their allegation that the defendants published false and misleading offering documents, including registration statements, prospectuses, and prospectus supplements. Specifically, these documents misrepresented or failed to disclose that underwriting guidelines for the mortgages backing the securities had been systematically disregarded.

According to the lawsuit, from 2005 through 2007 Countrywide was the nation’s largest residential mortgage lender, originating in excess of $850 billion in home loans throughout the United States in 2005 and 2006 alone. Countrywide’s ability to originate residential mortgages on such a massive scale was facilitated, in large part, by its ability to rapidly package or securitize those loans and then, through the activities of the underwriter defendants, sell them to investors as purportedly investment grade mortgage-backed securities.

In order to generate a steady flow of mortgage loans to sustain this mass production of mortgage-backed securities, Countrywide routinely issued loans to borrowers who otherwise would never have qualified for them – and indeed, did not qualify for the loans they received — through, for example, “low doc” and “no doc” loan programs, often with adjustable interest rates that had been designed for borrowers with higher incomes and better credit.

Upon pooling these mortgages and issuing them as MBS certificates, over 92% received the very highest, investment-grade ratings from rating agencies; ultimately, however, 87% were downgraded to junk. Tellingly, one year after the date of the certificate offerings, delinquency and default rates on the underlying mortgages had increased 2,525% from issuance. In explaining such an unprecedented collapse in ratings on these certificates in 2008 and 2009, the rating agencies noted that they were forced to change their models because of previously undisclosed and systematic “aggressive underwriting” practices used to originate the mortgage loan collateral. Along with the exponential increases in delinquency and default rates of the underlying mortgages and the collapse of the certificates’ ratings, the value of the certificates plummeted.

Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that the Defendants’ actions violated Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933, legislation, still on the books, originally enacted in response to similar abuses that led to the Great Depression.

The Countrywide case is pending before Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Cohen Milstein has been named lead or co-lead counsel by courts in eight of the most significant mortgage-backed securities cases currently being litigated, including Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual as well as Countrywide.

Docket No. 2:10-CV-00302

SOURCE Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

Copyright (C) 2010 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

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Posted in bank of america, CitiGroup, class action, lawsuit, mbs, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD1 Comment

Tracking Loans Through a Firm That Holds Millions: MERS

Tracking Loans Through a Firm That Holds Millions: MERS

Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times: Darlene and Robert Blendheim of Seattle are struggling to keep their home after their subprime lender went out of business.

By MIKE McINTIRE NYTimes
Published: April 23, 2009

Judge Walt Logan had seen enough. As a county judge in Florida, he had 28 cases pending in which an entity called MERS wanted to foreclose on homeowners even though it had never lent them any money.

Into the Mortgage NetherworldGraphicInto the Mortgage Netherworld

MERS, a tiny data-management company, claimed the right to foreclose, but would not explain how it came to possess the mortgage notes originally issued by banks. Judge Logan summoned a MERS lawyer to the Pinellas County courthouse and insisted that that fundamental question be answered before he permitted the drastic step of seizing someone’s home.

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times R. K. Arnold, MERS president, said the company helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on the industry.

“You don’t think that’s reasonable?” the judge asked.

“I don’t,” the lawyer replied. “And in fact, not only do I think it’s not reasonable, often that’s going to be impossible.”

Judge Logan had entered the murky realm of MERS. Although the average person has never heard of it, MERS — short for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems — holds 60 million mortgages on American homes, through a legal maneuver that has saved banks more than $1 billion over the last decade but made life maddeningly difficult for some troubled homeowners.

Created by lenders seeking to save millions of dollars on paperwork and public recording fees every time a loan changes hands, MERS is a confidential computer registry for trading mortgage loans. From an office in the Washington suburbs, it played an integral, if unsung, role in the proliferation of mortgage-backed securities that fueled the housing boom. But with the collapse of the housing market, the name of MERS has been popping up on foreclosure notices and on court dockets across the country, raising many questions about the way this controversial but legal process obscures the tortuous paths of mortgage ownership.

If MERS began as a convenience, it has, in effect, become a corporate cloak: no matter how many times a mortgage is bundled, sliced up or resold, the public record often begins and ends with MERS. In the last few years, banks have initiated tens of thousands of foreclosures in the name of MERS — about 13,000 in the New York region alone since 2005 — confounding homeowners seeking relief directly from lenders and judges trying to help borrowers untangle loan ownership. What is more, the way MERS obscures loan ownership makes it difficult for communities to identify predatory lenders whose practices led to the high foreclosure rates that have blighted some neighborhoods.

In Brooklyn, an elderly homeowner pursuing fraud claims had to go to court to learn the identity of the bank holding his mortgage note, which was concealed in the MERS system. In distressed neighborhoods of Atlanta, where MERS appeared as the most frequent filer of foreclosures, advocates wanting to engage lenders “face a challenge even finding someone with whom to begin the conversation,” according to a report by NeighborWorks America, a community development group.

To a number of critics, MERS has served to cushion banks from the fallout of their reckless lending practices.

“I’m convinced that part of the scheme here is to exhaust the resources of consumers and their advocates,” said Marie McDonnell, a mortgage analyst in Orleans, Mass., who is a consultant for lawyers suing lenders. “This system removes transparency over what’s happening to these mortgage obligations and sows confusion, which can only benefit the banks.”

A recent visitor to the MERS offices in Reston, Va., found the receptionist answering a telephone call from a befuddled borrower: “I’m sorry, ma’am, we can’t help you with your loan.” MERS officials say they frequently get such calls, and they offer a phone line and Web page where homeowners can look up the actual servicer of their mortgage.

In an interview, the president of MERS, R. K. Arnold, said that his company had benefited not only banks, but also millions of borrowers who could not have obtained loans without the money-saving efficiencies it brought to the mortgage trade. He said that far from posing a hurdle for homeowners, MERS had helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on a sprawling industry where, in the past, lenders might have gone out of business and left no contact information for borrowers seeking assistance.

“We’re not this big bad animal,” Mr. Arnold said. “This crisis that we’ve had in the mortgage business would have been a lot worse without MERS.”

About 3,000 financial services firms pay annual fees for access to MERS, which has 44 employees and is owned by two dozen of the nation’s largest lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. It was the brainchild of the Mortgage Bankers Association, along with Fannie MaeFreddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, the mortgage finance giants, who produced a white paper in 1993 on the need to modernize the trading of mortgages.

At the time, the secondary market was gaining momentum, and Wall Street banks and institutional investors were making millions of dollars from the creative bundling and reselling of loans. But unlike common stocks, whose ownership has traditionally been hidden, mortgage-backed securities are based on loans whose details were long available in public land records kept by county clerks, who collect fees for each filing. The “tyranny of these forms,” the white paper said, was costing the industry $164 million a year.

“Before MERS,” said John A. Courson, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, “the problem was that every time those documents or a file changed hands, you had to file a paper assignment, and that becomes terribly debilitating.”

Although several courts have raised questions over the years about the secrecy afforded mortgage owners by MERS, the legality has ultimately been upheld. The issue has surfaced again because so many homeowners facing foreclosure are dealing with MERS.

Advocates for borrowers complain that the system’s secrecy makes it impossible to seek help from the unidentified investors who own their loans. Avi Shenkar, whose company, the GMA Modification Corporation in North Miami Beach, Fla., helps homeowners renegotiate mortgages, said loan servicers frequently argued that “investor guidelines” prevented them from modifying loan terms.

“But when you ask what those guidelines are, or who the investor is so you can talk to them directly, you can’t find out,” he said.

MERS has considered making information about secondary ownership of mortgages available to borrowers, Mr. Arnold said, but he expressed doubts that it would be useful. Banks appoint a servicer to manage individual mortgages so “investors are not in the business of dealing with borrowers,” he said. “It seems like anything that bypasses the servicer is counterproductive,” he added.

When foreclosures do occur, MERS becomes responsible for initiating them as the mortgage holder of record. But because MERS occupies that role in name only, the bank actually servicing the loan deputizes its employees to act for MERS and has its lawyers file foreclosures in the name of MERS.

The potential for confusion is multiplied when the high-tech MERS system collides with the paper-driven foreclosure process. Banks using MERS to consummate mortgage trades with “electronic handshakes” must later prove their legal standing to foreclose. But without the chain of title that MERS removed from the public record, banks sometimes recreate paper assignments long after the fact or try to replace mortgage notes lost in the securitization process.

This maneuvering has been attacked by judges, who say it reflects a cavalier attitude toward legal safeguards for property owners, and exploited by borrowers hoping to delay foreclosure. Judge Logan in Florida, among the first to raise questions about the role of MERS, stopped accepting MERS foreclosures in 2005 after his colloquy with the company lawyer. MERS appealed and won two years later, although it has asked banks not to foreclose in its name in Florida because of lingering concerns.

Last February, a State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn, Arthur M. Schack, rejected a foreclosure based on a document in which a Bank of New York executive identified herself as a vice president of MERS. Calling her “a milliner’s delight by virtue of the number of hats she wears,” Judge Schack wondered if the banker was “engaged in a subterfuge.”

In Seattle, Ms. McDonnell has raised similar questions about bankers with dual identities and sloppily prepared documents, helping to delay foreclosure on the home of Darlene and Robert Blendheim, whose subprime lender went out of business and left a confusing paper trail.

“I had never heard of MERS until this happened,” Mrs. Blendheim said. “It became an issue with us, because the bank didn’t have the paperwork to prove they owned the mortgage and basically recreated what they needed.”

The avalanche of foreclosures — three million last year, up 81 percent from 2007 — has also caused unforeseen problems for the people who run MERS, who take obvious pride in their unheralded role as a fulcrum of the American mortgage industry.

In Delaware, MERS is facing a class-action lawsuit by homeowners who contend it should be held accountable for fraudulent fees charged by banks that foreclose in MERS’s name.

Sometimes, banks have held title to foreclosed homes in the name of MERS, rather than their own. When local officials call and complain about vacant properties falling into disrepair, MERS tries to track down the lender for them, and has also created a registry to locate property managers responsible for foreclosed homes.

“But at the end of the day,” said Mr. Arnold, president of MERS, “if that lawn is not getting mowed and we cannot find the party who’s responsible for that, I have to get out there and mow that lawn.”

Posted in CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, forensic loan audit, forensic mortgage investigation audit, Freddie Mac, investigation, jpmorgan chase, judge arthur schack, MERS, mortgage bankers association, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, mortgage modification, note, R.K. Arnold, securitization, wells fargo0 Comments

Bank Investigations Cheat Sheet: ProPublica

Bank Investigations Cheat Sheet: ProPublica

by Marian Wang, ProPublica – May 13, 2010

Here’s our attempt to lay out exactly what’s known about which banks are being investigated by whom and for what. We’re going to keep updating this page, so please send usstories or details we’ve missed. Related: Covering the Bank Investigations: A Cautionary Tale

  What has been reported What the bank has said
 
Citigroup
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has reported that Citigroup is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Also citing unnamed sources, Fox Business reported on May 12 that the SEC has an active civil investigation into Citigroup and has subpoenaed the firm, but has not issued any Wells notices. A report on May 12th by the Journal cited unnamed sources saying that the Department of Justice is scrutinizing a few CDO deals that Morgan Stanley bet against–but which were underwritten by Citigroup and UBS. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department have confirmed these reports.

Citing two anonymous sources, The New York Times has reported that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating eight banks to determine whether they misled rating agencies in order to get higher ratings for their mortgage-related products; Citigroup has been named as one of the banks. Subpoenas were issued on May 12, according to the Times and the Dow Jones Newswires, both of which relied on anonymous sourcing for their reports.

Citigroup has declined to comment to us and other outlets.

Credit Agricole
Credit Agricole has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately. Credit Agricole did not immediately respond to the Times’ request for comment and has not yet responded to ours.

Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating. Credit Suisse declined to comment to the Times about the New York attorney general’s investigation.

Deutsche Bank
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has reported that Deutsche Bank is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Also citing unnamed sources, Fox Business reported on May 12 that the SEC has an active civil investigation into Deutsche and has subpoenaed the firm, but has not issued any Wells notices. Neither agency has confirmed these reports.

Deutsche Bank has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment to Fox, the Journal, and the Times about possible investigations.

Goldman Sachs
The SEC has brought a civil fraud lawsuit against Goldman, alleging that the investment bank made “materially misleading statements and omissions” when it allowed a hedge fund to help create and bet against a CDO, called Abacus, without disclosing the hedge fund’s role to investors.

The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the probe,” reported in April that the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into Goldman’s CDO dealings following a referral from the SEC. Neither agency has confirmed this, but the AP, citing another unnamed source, has reported the same thing. Since then, many news organizations–including the The New York TimesABC News and the Washington Post–have also reported on the criminal probe, citing unnamed sources. No charges have been brought.

Goldman Sachs has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating separately.

Goldman called the SEC’s accusations “unfounded in law and fact.

After the reports of a criminal investigation, a Goldman Sachs spokesman declined to confirm that the bank had been contacted by the DOJ but also told several news outlets that “given the recent focus on the firm, we’re not surprised by the report of an inquiry. We would cooperate fully with any request for information.”

The bank has declined to comment to us on the New York attorney general’s investigation.

 
JP Morgan Chase
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal has also reported that JPMorgan Chase has received civil subpoenas from the SEC and is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department has confirmed these reports. A JPMorgan spokesman told the Journal that the bank “hasn’t been contacted” by federal prosecutors and isn’t aware of a criminal investigation.

Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America)
Merrill has not been named in any SEC investigations. But as we pointed out, a lawsuit brought by a Dutch bank asserts that Merrill Lynch did a CDO deal that was “precisely” like Goldman’s. The SEC has declined to comment on whether it is investigating the deal.

Merrill Lynch has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

Merrill has said its CDO deal was not like Goldman’s, calling Goldman’s Abacus deal an “entirely different transaction.”

The bank did not immediately return the Times’ request for comment about the investigation by Coumo, but when we called and asked, a spokesman from Bank of America, which merged with Merrill, said, “We are cooperating with the attorney general’s office on this matter.”


Morgan Stanley
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported on May 12 that the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into Morgan Stanley’s CDO dealings, including its role in helping design and betting against two sets of CDOs from 2006 known as Jackson and Buchanan. The Justice Department declined to comment. No charges have been brought, and according to the Journal, the probe is “at a preliminary stage.” A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said the bank had “no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into these transactions.” The Journal reported that the SEC has subpoenaed Morgan Stanley on several occasions, but the bank says it has received no Wells notices, which would indicate pending SEC charges.

Morgan Stanley has also been named as one of the banks that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said on May 12that the firm has “not been contacted by the Justice Department about the transactions being raised by The Wall Street Journal, and we have no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into these transactions.”

The investment bank declined to comment to the Times about the Coumo’s investigation.


UBS
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported that UBS has received civil subpoenas from the SEC and is under “early-stage criminal scrutiny” by the Department of Justice. In a report on May 12, the Journal reported that the Justice Department is scrutinizing a few CDO deals that Morgan Stanley helped design and bet against–but which were marketed by Citigroup and UBS. Neither the SEC nor the Justice Department has confirmed these reports. The firm has not disclosed that it has gotten any Wells notices.

UBS has also been named as one of the banks New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

A UBS spokesman has declined to comment on any of the investigations.

Posted in bank of america, citi, CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, corruption, Credit Suisse, FED FRAUD, federal reserve board, foreclosure fraud, goldman sachs, investigation, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, S.E.C., scam, securitization0 Comments


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