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Matt Stoller: Treat foreclosure as a crime scene

Matt Stoller: Treat foreclosure as a crime scene


“Obama may talk of the “99 percent” but his administration is engaged in an aggressive coverup of bank crimes.”

 

Politico-

Bubbling under the surface of politics is the foreclosure crisis — where the power of big finance is brushing up against the rule of law. The party leaders seem to have decided it is essentially a giant — but unavoidable — tragedy. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said foreclosures have to clear for the housing market to reset. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has spent only about $2 billion of the $75 billion authorized for the Home Affordable Modification Program.

But the foreclosure crisis is not only a few million personal tragedies. It is a few million crime scenes.

[POLITICO]

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Senator Maria Cantwell: MERS “should be shut down and dissolved”

Senator Maria Cantwell: MERS “should be shut down and dissolved”


H/T Matt Stoller

December 15, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder, Jr.

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I write regarding the ongoing settlement talks between state attorneys general, federal fraud regulators, the White House, and large financial institutions over alleged illegal foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices and abuses.

I am concerned that recently reported settlement proposals will effectively absolve these financial institutions of substantial civil and criminal liability in one of the largest alleged fraud schemes during the financial crisis. Specifically, I am concerned that the proposed settlement includes a release from liability that may be far too sweeping, does not adequately compensate victims, does not require enough of banks to reform the system that led to the crisis in the first place, and is being made before all the facts are known and without the backing of a full inquiry into the size and scope of the alleged fraud.

Large financial institutions helped inflate the housing bubble through tranching and securitizing mortgages at a frenetic pace while disregarding mortgage and foreclosure laws. Collecting fees from issuing mortgages then selling to investors securities backed by these mortgages allowed the largest financial institutions to pump up profits and home prices, while dumping any potential losses on homeowners, taxpayers, and investors. When the housing bubble burst taxpayers were forced to bail out the largest financial institutions. It is estimated that the federal government disbursed over $4.7 trillion to financial institutions, and guaranteed an additional $13.87 trillion, during the financial crisis.

Without a thorough investigation, it is impossible to truly estimate just how pervasive the defects in the foreclosure and securitization process are. Continued reports of wrongful foreclosures, forged documents, and an inability of servicers and banks to prove chain of title and the legal right to foreclosure, raises the very alarming possibility that these defects were endemic to the mortgage servicing industry across the country. The sheer magnitude of the potential fallout from these defects demands that we undertake a full investigation to uncover the true scope of wrongdoing before providing blanket immunity to the perpetrators.

I am also concerned that reports of a settlement in the range of $20 billion, as recently reported, may not adequately compensate the victims of the foreclosure crisis. As a result of the pump-and-dump scheme perpetrated by the nation’s largest banks that inflated – and burst – the housing bubble, an estimated 14 million Americans are underwater, owing $700 billion more on their homes than those homes are worth. A $20 billion settlement is woefully inadequate to compensate the wrongfully evicted or homeowners struggling to stay in their homes. Much more should be required of banks to provide meaningful help underwater homeowners and compensate foreclosure fraud victims.

A settlement with mortgage servicers must also require reforms to ensure such abuses do not happen again. The goal of servicing mortgages must be accuracy and adherence to the law, not expediency and corner-cutting. Confidence must be restored that proper transference of notes and mortgages was followed and clear chains of titles are available for all mortgages. Until then, the burden of proof must be on financial institutions to prove that they have the legal authority to foreclose. The Mortgage Electronic Registration System should be dissolved and shut down, and the shortcut that allowed banks to avoid hundreds of millions, if not billions, in local fees to local registrars of deeds be closed off. It is critical that large banks not be allowed to shirk their tax obligations to local governments. A settlement in this case must compensate state and local governments for taxes and fees which were owed but not collected.

The crisis in our housing and financial markets has shaken the confidence of the American people in our financial system and in government. Holding banks accountable for abusive and fraudulent practices, while compensating damaged homeowners, wrongfully evicted, local governments, and defrauded investors is vital to restoring that confidence. I urge you to ensure that any settlement with mortgage servicers over alleged foreclosure abuses does not absolve liability for crimes and wrongdoing that has yet to be fully investigated, and ensures just compensation for victims.

I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell

###

[ipaper docId=75811029 access_key=key-3akr4fq4pq5lfwoyir3 height=600 width=600 /]

 

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Banks Press for CFPB Waivers in Foreclosure Talks

Banks Press for CFPB Waivers in Foreclosure Talks


Little by little they are working their way up to freedom.

All their eggs are almost in the basket…

WSJ-

Banks are demanding that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau relinquish the right to sue over certain flawed mortgage originations, in exchange for their participation in a proposed multibillion-dollar settlement of alleged foreclosure abuses.

The banks say their inability to secure a sufficiently broad release from the new bureau, which was sidelined in earlier discussions as it launched, would be a deal breaker. The five biggest U.S. mortgage banks, state attorneys general and Obama administration officials are pushing to finalize a deal before the end of the year that would be worth $19 billion or more.

[WALL STREET JOURNAL]

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Borrowers may give up future claims in foreclosure reviews

Borrowers may give up future claims in foreclosure reviews


We already knew this and if you expect any real restitution, you’re in for a surprise!

HW-

A mortgage servicer will be granted a waiver from future claims depending on what sort of remediation a borrower gets from the foreclosure reviews conducted under federal consent orders.

Independent consultants, approved by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, will review nearly 4.5 million foreclosure files over the next several months. They will be looking for any harm caused by improper practices uncovered last year.

[HOUSING WIRE]

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Banks, Officials Near Pact on Foreclosures

Banks, Officials Near Pact on Foreclosures


Planned…just in time for the Holidays around the corner!

Here’s hoping you forget when you get back from celebrating!

 

WSJ-

Five large lenders could be forced to make concessions worth roughly $19 billion as bank representatives and government officials push to put the finishing touches on a settlement of most state and federal investigations of alleged foreclosure improprieties.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and state officials hope to reach a deal as soon as this week, though any agreement could be delayed by unresolved issues including the naming of a monitor to oversee the agreement.

The settlement would end months-long negotiations among federal officials, state attorneys general and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers: Ally Financial Inc., Bank …

[WALL STREET JOURNAL]

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Ex-FDIC Chief Sheila Bair Top Pick for Bank Monitor

Ex-FDIC Chief Sheila Bair Top Pick for Bank Monitor


For some background information on Sheila Bair please read Joe Nocera’s great article: Sheila Bair’s Bank Shot

 Bloomberg-

Sheila Bair, the former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman, is a leading candidate among state officials to ensure banks comply with any settlement of a nationwide foreclosure probe, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bair, who led the agency from 2006 until stepping down this year, is supported by some state officials as a third-party monitor of any settlement with mortgage servicers, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the person said. At least one bank in the talks, Citigroup Inc. (C), opposes her selection, said the person, who didn’t want to be named because the talks are private.

[BLOOMBERG]

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OCC Foreclosure Review Disclosures Still Disappoint

OCC Foreclosure Review Disclosures Still Disappoint


Doing something — anything — quickly but poorly is no substitute for taking the time to do what needs to be done well.

American Banker-

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is fearful that the quick-and-poor may prevail with mortgage servicer reviews, based on what she sees planned in response to last April’s consent orders from federal regulators.

“The only thing worse than no accountability for the banks,” according to Waters, “is for regulators to create the illusion of accountability, while putting no enforcement power behind their efforts.”

[AMERICAN BANKER]

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Cummings Calls for Unredacted Copies of “Engagement Letters” Between Mortgage Servicing Companies and Private Consultants

Cummings Calls for Unredacted Copies of “Engagement Letters” Between Mortgage Servicing Companies and Private Consultants


Washington, DC (Nov. 22, 2011)—Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings released the following statement today regarding the public release of highly redacted “engagement letters” between mortgage servicing companies and independent consultants they hired to review past foreclosure abuses:

“Although I am encouraged that some information is being made public today, our Committee should issue subpoenas to obtain full, unredacted copies of these documents so we can ensure that homeowners are being fully and appropriately compensated.  Six months is too long to wait to conduct oversight of mortgage servicing companies that illegally foreclosed against homeowners.”

Today, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released copies of the engagement letters with significant redactions, including the removal of sections regarding past work, actual and potential conflicts of interest, and the procedures available to homeowners to file claims and complaints due to errors, misrepresentations, or other deficiencies in a foreclosure process.

Cummings first asked for full copies of these engagement letters on May 31, 2011, following a report issued by federal regulators finding “critical weaknesses” and “widespread risk” with 14 of the nation’s largest mortgage servicing companies’ foreclosure practices.

The regulators ordered the mortgage servicing companies to hire private consultants to conduct more comprehensive reviews of their foreclosure actions, but the regulators allowed them to propose the terms of the reviews, including the methodology of the reviews, the criteria guiding the selection of cases to be reviewed, and any proposed sampling techniques.  Some have criticized this approach for providing insufficient oversight of the banks’ actions.

In their responses to Cummings, the regulators explained that, by law, they cannot produce the full engagement letters until they are legally compelled to do so.

As a result, on October 27, Cummings wrote to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa requesting that he either issue subpoenas for the engagement letters or schedule a subpoena vote for the Committee’s business meeting on November 17, 2011.  Issa declined to take either step, stating at the business meeting that he preferred to wait until Thanksgiving to determine whether the engagement letters would be released voluntarily.

 

source: http://democrats.oversight.house.gov

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OCC Releases Status Report on Fixing Deficient Foreclosure Practices, Names Of Consultants Conducting Reviews

OCC Releases Status Report on Fixing Deficient Foreclosure Practices, Names Of Consultants Conducting Reviews


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2011
Contact: Bryan Hubbard
(202) 874-5770
.

OCC Releases Status Report on Fixing Deficient Foreclosure Practices

WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a report today on the actions by 12 national bank and federal savings association mortgage servicers to comply with consent orders issued in April 2011 to correct deficient and unsafe or unsound foreclosure practices.

The report, “Interim Status Report: Foreclosure-Related Consent Orders,” summarizes progress on activities related to the independent foreclosure review announced November 1, 2011, as well as other activities to enhance mortgage servicing operations, strengthen oversight of third-party service providers and activities related to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), improve management information systems, assess and manage risk, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

While much of the work to correct identified weaknesses in policies, operating procedures, control functions, and audit processes will be substantially complete in the first part of 2012, other longer term initiatives will continue through the balance of 2012.

In addition to the interim report, the OCC also released engagement letters that describe how the independent consultants, retained by the servicers, will conduct their file reviews and claims processes to identify borrowers who suffered financial injury as a result of deficiencies identified in the OCC’s consent orders.  The letters identify the names of the independent consultants conducting the reviews and include language stipulating that consultants would take direction from the OCC throughout the reviews.  This language specifically prohibits servicers from overseeing, directing, or supervising any of the reviews.  Limited proprietary and personal information has been redacted.  The review process being implemented at some companies may differ from that described in the engagement letters because of subsequent coordination with the OCC to ensure a consistent process among the servicers. 

Related Links

# # #

Pursuant to 12 C.F.R. § 4.12(c), the disclosure of the engagement letters at the OCC’s election has no precedential significance.

source: occ

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Foreclosure Review Services (FRS) was neither proposed nor reviewed by either OCC or Federal Reserve

Foreclosure Review Services (FRS) was neither proposed nor reviewed by either OCC or Federal Reserve


UPDATE: Mr. Bryan Hubbard Director of Public Affairs Operations at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has informed this site of the following after several blogs learned that a former David J. Stern’s Attorney, Miriam Mendieta was to assist in reviewing of 4.5 Million foreclosure fraud cases:

Foreclosure Review Services (FRS) has not been contracted by any of the independent consultants conducting independent foreclosure reviews required by the consent orders issued by the OCC in April. The OCC and Federal Reserve reviewed independent consultant and subcontractors for conflicts of interest prior to approval. FRS was neither proposed nor reviewed.

Bryan Hubbard
Director, Public Affairs Operations
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

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