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Tag Archive | "mortgage crisis"

Foreclosure Lawyer Could Lose Her Home Because Of Alleged Bank Error

Foreclosure Lawyer Could Lose Her Home Because Of Alleged Bank Error


You know it’s going to end badly when these joker of banks screw with the wrong person!

HuffPO-

Christine Jackson’s three-bedroom wood-frame home in Indianapolis is in danger of foreclosure. It’s not because she can’t afford her mortgage, but because of a bank error, she said.

Jackson is one among thousands of homeowners from all walks of life who have complained that the major banks that service their mortgages have made frequent errors in calculating their loans. These errors include slapping unnecessary inspection fees onto accounts, misapplying payments in violation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines and “force-placing” expensive insurance onto homes that are already insured.

Jackson knows all this all too well because she is a lawyer who represents homeowners trying to stave off foreclosure. Often, those clients have claimed that their bank or mortgage servicer made a mistake in tabulating the cost of their loan, triggering a wrongful default. Jackson, 54, a former fraud investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, now understands firsthand the frustration that her clients face.

[HUFFINGTONPOST]

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The 11 Most Bizarre Foreclosure Stories Of 2011

The 11 Most Bizarre Foreclosure Stories Of 2011


HuffPO-

The housing collapse and subsequent foreclosure crisis has claimed the homes of millions of Americans. But that tragedy may only be matched by the absurdity of some of its tales.

As of February, lenders had foreclosed on 2.7 million homes out of the 42.2 million mortgages borrowers took out between 2004 and 2008, according to a recent report by the Center for Responsible Lending. Though many of the foreclosures have been routine, the sheer volume has resulted in some glaring errors and bizarre evictions.

One Florida couple was threatened with foreclosure for making a payment too early. In Texas, a man faced foreclosure on a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Ike years ago, while in Massachusetts, Bank of America threatened to seize a home if it didn’t receive an outstanding mortgage payment worth $0.00.

But there is some indication that these ridiculous stories are indicative of a systematic pattern of wrongdoing on the part of the lenders. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a lawsuit, earlier this week, against five of the biggest mortgage lenders, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citbank and Ally Financial Inc., alleging the lenders used fraudulent paper work to foreclose on “hundreds if not thousands” of Massachusetts homes, BusinessWeek reports.

[HUFFINGTONPOST]

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BofA Threatens Foreclosure Over Missing $1 From Already-Sold Home

BofA Threatens Foreclosure Over Missing $1 From Already-Sold Home


This isn’t the first and afraid not going to be the last

HuffPO-

How could a home be repossessed when it’s no longer in the homeowner’s possession? One family in Utah asked itself the same question.

Shantell Curtis and her family were threatened with foreclosure months after they had sold their Vernal, Utah house. What’s more, the problem revolved around a single dollar, Connect2Utah.com reports (h/t The Consumerist). Months after the Curtises sold and moved out of the home in August of last year, their lender, Bank of America, reportedly sent them a foreclosure notice.

Bank of America claimed the family owed months of missed mortgage payments, before realizing a $1 coding error had held up the Curtises’ title transfer. While BofA has taken months to resolving the issue, the Curtises’ credit report has taken a beating since then.

[HUFFINGTONPOST]

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Homeowners, Investors in Mortgage Backed Securities Feel Your Pain. Hear Their Lawyer Talk About Servicer Nightmares.

Homeowners, Investors in Mortgage Backed Securities Feel Your Pain. Hear Their Lawyer Talk About Servicer Nightmares.


Absolutely do not miss this piece from Abigail Field – So head over and please absorb the information.

 

Abigail C. Field-

If you want to cut through some of the nonsense the banks have managed to sell as information about the housing situation, robosigning, mortgage modifications, check out this very accessible interview of attorney Talcott Franklin by Martin Andelman.

Tal represents the majority of investors hosed once by Wall Streeers selling AAA-rated mortgage backed junk, and constantly being hosed again by the big bank servicers of those mortgages. Interestingly, his perspective sounds very much like homeowners’. Yes, a couple of times it gets a little too legalistic, but only for about 5 minutes of the slightly longer than the hour chat—when you hit the overview of the contracts structuring securitization, or any other topic that is more in the weeds than you want to go, take a deep breath and keep going. Most of the interview is in a rhythm and a language that creates clarity I’ve not seen or heard elsewhere.

[REALITY CHECK]

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The World of the Investor with Attorney Talcott Franklin – A Mandelman Matters Podcast

The World of the Investor with Attorney Talcott Franklin – A Mandelman Matters Podcast


Please find some time today or over the weekend to listen to this excellent podcast of Martin Andelman’s interview with Attorney Talcott Franklin, who represents more than half of all the investors in mortgage-backed securities on the planet.  Tal’s the co-author of the “Mortgage and Asset-backed Securities Litigation Handbook,” and he’s a very experienced and highly sophisticated litigator. You will learn a whole lot and many thanks to Martin for this super interview.

Please head over to Mandelman Matters for the full article.

The podcast is available in two versions… MP4 and MP3.  The MP4 version includes a couple of slides that show diagrams of the basic securitization process, but the MP4 format may not play on some computers.  The MP3 version is audio only, and should play on most any computer.  Most listeners will have no trouble following along either way.

So, turn up the volume on your speakers, and click the MP4 or MP3 version.  I loved recoding this podcast.  If you want to know more about the foreclosure crisis, you’re about to learn from an expert on the other side of the foreclosures, the investor side… it doesn’t get any better than this!

CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE ENHANCED MP4 VERSION

… INCLUDES SLIDES ON SECURITIZATION

 OR

CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE MP3 VERSION

Mandelman out.


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Tammy Baldwin To Introduce Resolution Opposing Immunity For Banks In Foreclosure Deal

Tammy Baldwin To Introduce Resolution Opposing Immunity For Banks In Foreclosure Deal


HuffPo-

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is set to introduce a resolution in Congress this week calling on the Obama administration and state attorneys general to ensure that any deal reached with the nation’s biggest banks on foreclosure abuses includes full investigations into what happened, awards proper compensation to victims and provides no immunity for potential wrongdoing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the state AGs have been working with the nation’s five largest mortgage firms — Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — to settle disputes over potentially illegal foreclosure practices, such as the so-called robo-signing of foreclosure documents.

Baldwin’s resolution states that any settlement should follow three guidelines: […]

[HUFFINGTONPOST]

Letter she sent to Eric Holder

[ipaper docId=71461809 access_key=key-1zveog1fwt3vzgl7kan5 height=600 width=600 /]

 

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Bloomberg Blames Congress Not Wall Street For Mortgage Crisis [VIDEO]

Bloomberg Blames Congress Not Wall Street For Mortgage Crisis [VIDEO]


by

Mayor Michael Bloomberg blames congress and defends banks, over the mortgage crisis, during a November 1, 2011 breakfast in midtown.

But Who Created The Fraud? Who got paid to let Wall Street do what they so desired?

 

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MERS Responds to Essex Co., Mass. Announcement Company in compliance with purpose and intent of state recording acts

MERS Responds to Essex Co., Mass. Announcement Company in compliance with purpose and intent of state recording acts


MERS Responds to Essex Co., Mass. Announcement
Company in compliance with purpose and intent of
state recording acts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karmela Lejarde
703-761-1274

Reston, Virginia Feb. 25, 2011—MERS has not received any direct legal communication regarding Mr. O’Brien’s February 22, 2011 announcement. The use of MERS is in compliance with the purpose and intent of the state recording acts. MERS intends to fully defend itself against these unfounded allegations.

It is not the case that recording fees are somehow owed or outstanding. All MERS mortgages are recorded in the public land records, and MERS members pay recording fees when the mortgage is recorded. Fees are paid for a service performed, and if a document is eliminated because it is no longer necessary, no fee is due because there is nothing to record. We believe it is wrong and unethical to seek money for services that were never rendered, and in fact, MERS greatly reduces the workload of county recorders, resulting in lower operating expenses for the county recorder’s office. Moreover, it would be the borrower who ultimately pays the costs of recording assignments, either directly or indirectly.

When MERS is the mortgagee, the mortgage is recorded at the county land records, thereby putting the public on notice that there is a lien on the property. The MERS® System also complements the county land records by providing additional information that was never intended to be recorded at the county level, namely the information about the mortgage loan servicer, and now, with the addition of MERS® InvestorID, the name of the investor.

– 30 –

source: MERS

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O’BRIEN CALLS ON MERS TO COME CLEAN AND PAY UP: SAYS ESSEX COUNTY OWED $22 MILLION DOLLARS

O’BRIEN CALLS ON MERS TO COME CLEAN AND PAY UP: SAYS ESSEX COUNTY OWED $22 MILLION DOLLARS


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Salem, MA
February 22nd 2011

Contact:
Kevin Harvey, 1st Assistant Register
978-542-1724
kevin.harvey@sec.state.ma.us

O’BRIEN CALLS ON MERS TO COME CLEAN AND PAY UP: SAYS ESSEX COUNTY OWED $22 MILLION DOLLARS

Essex South Register of Deeds John O’Brien announced today that he will be seeking over $22 million dollars from the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, “MERS” which represents several major banking conglomerates.  O’Brien bases the $22M number on the fact that the Salem registry has recorded over 148,663 MERS mortgages since 1998.  After a careful review of a number of these mortgages O’Brien said it became very clear to him that MERS had assigned mortgages to other entities at least twice without paying a recording fee.  Based on this information the taxpayers have been defrauded out of $22,299,450 in Southern Essex County alone.  It is quite possible that in some cases they may have assigned the notes more than twice resulting in even greater loss of revenue. O’Brien called MERS “one of the greediest schemes ever perpetrated on the American people.  They have compromised the integrity of the public land recordation system and in doing so, have wreaked havoc on our economy”.

Last week MERS announced a major policy change conceding that assignments should be recorded in the various Registries across the country and “assignments out of MERS’s name should be recorded in the county land records, even if the state law does not require such a recording.” In addition MERS instructed its members to “not foreclose in MERS name”. O’Brien further states “MERS has now finally acknowledged that their business model was flawed, and they didn’t adhere to the legal requirement that all assignments of a mortgage must be recorded at the local Registry of Deeds.”  “If they had followed the law the public would know who was buying and selling their mortgage, and it would have been an open, honest and transparent process.  The fact that they deliberately chose to create a for-profit private cyber Registry of Deeds whose only purpose was to avoid paying the same fees as everyone else and keeping the public in the dark as to who was the rightful owner of the mortgage clearly demonstrates to me that this was a scheme of epic proportions.”  “When Wall Street and these major lenders joined together in creating MERS, they plunged us into a housing nightmare with little or no regard for their actions.  It’s obvious that their only motivation was to manufacture huge profits off the backs of homeowners and taxpayers. They should all be ashamed of themselves and step up to the plate and do the honorable thing and make the taxpayers’ whole,” O’Brien said.

The Essex South Registry of Deeds is one of 21 Registries in Massachusetts which have recorded MERS mortgages .O’Brien estimates that based on his conservative estimate of two assignments per mortgage the Commonwealth may be owed statewide upwards of $200 million dollars in lost recording fees.  Nationwide, the amount of revenue lost could be in the billions. O’Brien is calling on MERS to come clean and inform the registers of deeds across the country as to the number of times they assigned mortgages to other entities.  Only then will we get a true picture of the economic impact that this fraud has had on our country.

O’Brien, who in November, 2010, notified Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley about MERS, will now be forwarding to her this additional information. “We need to act quickly to recover these funds,” O’Brien said.

[ipaper docId=49355778 access_key=key-ov8013p1bz75wu9pdyi height=600 width=600 /]

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AG Coakley Following Up On Essex County’s O’Brien’s MERS Inquiry

AG Coakley Following Up On Essex County’s O’Brien’s MERS Inquiry


Firm may skirt millions in property fees

Attorney general, others probe system created by lenders

By Jenifer B. McKim Globe Staff / December 15, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley is trying to determine whether a lender-created company that tracks mortgage loan data has failed to pay millions of dollars in property recording fees in Massachusetts.

Coakley is taking aim at the little-known but powerful Reston, Va., company whose members include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase, and other major lenders.

The company, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., oversees a database of about 31 million mortgages, about half of the active loans in the United States.

As concern about foreclosure practices mounts across the country, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems is increasingly being questioned by regulators, lawyers, and housing advocates about the way it operates.

Essex County’s register of deeds, John L. O’Brien Jr., last month asked Coakley to investigate the company, known as MERS. He said that by using its own database for property transfers, MERS does not pay recording fees or disclose the transactions, as Massachusetts law requires.

O’Brien estimated that in Essex County alone, $10 million was lost over the past decade because MERS failed to pay a $75 fee each time a mortgage was transferred between lenders.

“They created their own registry of deeds,’’ he said. “They have to record these assignments. The taxpayers deserve these fees.’’

A spokeswoman for Coakley said her office is looking at the issues O’Brien raised.

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MA Secretary Galvin to File Bill Requiring Court Approval on Foreclosures, Register O’Brien Agrees

MA Secretary Galvin to File Bill Requiring Court Approval on Foreclosures, Register O’Brien Agrees


Bill calls for court OK to foreclose

Galvin says reviews would clarify titles, protect homeowners

“You aren’t going to straighten out the economy of the state until this housing thing gets figured out.” — William F. Galvin, Secretary of state

By Jenifer B. McKim
Globe Staff / December 6, 2010

Secretary of State William F. Galvin plans to submit a bill next month that would force Massachusetts mortgage lenders to get court approval before seizing homes, in an effort to protect homeowners and address concerns about how foreclosures are conducted.

Galvin said he will revive a proposal that state lawmakers rejected two years ago because of new questions about the validity of titles for foreclosed properties — an issue housing specialists say is hampering the state’s real estate market.

“Unless we do something to clean up the titles in these properties we are going to have a big continued problem,’’ Galvin said. “You aren’t going to straighten out the economy of the state until this housing thing gets figured out.’’

Massachusetts is one of 27 states that do not require foreclosures to be reviewed by a judge.

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County Register of Deeds Picks Fight with MERS

County Register of Deeds Picks Fight with MERS


Richard Zombeck

Richard Zombeck

Eyes and Ears Mortgage Specialist and ShametheBanks.org Founder

Posted: November 29, 2010 01:31 PM
.

About a week ago, John O’Brien, Register of Deeds in Essex County Massachusetts, sent a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley asking that she look into whether MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.) failed to pay legally required recording fees in Massachusetts when a MERS-mortgage is assigned to another entity, like a trust or a bank.

MERS is a privately held company that operates an electronic registry designed to track servicing rights and ownership of mortgage loans in the United States.

MERS has seen a lot of attention of late because of the number of robo-signing cases popping up at banks and mortgage servicers. MERS has no employees, it simply assigns and designates an estimated 20,000 unpaid VPs and officersrecent testimony before Congress. around the country as certifying officers to sign off on mortgage transfers, foreclosures, and assignments, according to R.K. Arnold, President and CEO of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., in a

The recording fees Essex County has missed out on as a result of MERS purportedly bypassing normal recording channels was O’Brien’s primary concern.

In his November 18 letter to Attorney General Coakley, O’Brien wrote, “I am writing to ask that you investigate and provide me with an official opinion as to whether or not the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) has failed to pay the proper recording fees required under Massachusetts statute when a lender assigns a mortgage to another entity.”


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The States Attorneys Take On Foreclosures Mess

The States Attorneys Take On Foreclosures Mess


The States Take On Foreclosures

By JOE NOCERA
Published: October 29, 2010

Have you noticed that the lead dogs investigating the mortgage foreclosure mess are not any federal prosecutors or national bank regulators, but rather the state attorneys general? I sure have. I can’t think of a more encouraging development.

Yeah, yeah, a handful of federal investigations have also been announced, but we all know that they’re not going to amount to a hill of beans. Ever since the financial crisis began two years ago, the federal overseers of the banking industry have been consistently unwilling to take the rod to the institutions they regulate. The robo-signing scandal — and it is, unquestionably, a scandal — hasn’t changed that attitude one iota.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have made it clear that they are more concerned about keeping the foreclosure mill going full speed than they are about determining whether the banks broke the law. Somehow throwing people out of their homes quickly is supposed to help the economy. Or so they keep telling us.

Ah, but the states. They’re a different story. Soon after tales of robo-signing began making headlines, the state attorneys general, led by Tom Miller of Iowa, mobilized their forces. Practically overnight, all 50 of them agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the bank practices that led to the scandal.

Unlike the feds’ tepid efforts, this will be a serious investigation, led by a handful of assistant attorneys general who’ve worked together for years, and who see this as their chance to finally do something for beleaguered homeowners. They’ve got resources, subpoena power and a justifiable suspicion that the robo-signing shenanigans are just the tip of a very ugly iceberg.

And best of all, they have a very clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish. They don’t want to merely reform the foreclosure system (though that would be nice, wouldn’t it?). Nor do they particularly want a big financial settlement, which would be meaningless for a giant like Bank of America.

Rather, they hope to use their investigation as a cudgel to force the big banks and servicers to do something they’ve long resisted: institute widespread, systematic loan modifications. “Instead of paying a huge fine,” Mr. Miller posited to me the other day, on his way to an election rally, “maybe have the servicers adequately fund a serious modification process.” Getting the banks and servicers to take loan modification seriously is another in a series of areas where the Obama Treasury Department has failed miserably.

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The Elephant In The Foreclosure Fraud Room: Second Liens

The Elephant In The Foreclosure Fraud Room: Second Liens


There’s been plenty of recent media attention to the prospect of investor lawsuits over fraudulent mortgages and mortgage securities. But investor lawsuits against mortgage servicers could be even more damaging than these other lines of legal inquiry. The four largest banks hold nearly half a trillion dollars worth of second-lien mortgages on their books—loans that could be decimated if investors successfully target improper mortgage servicing operations. The result would be major trouble for the financial system. The result would be major trouble for too-big-to-fail behemoths.

Mortgage servicers are the banking industry’s debt collectors. They accept payments and forward them along to investors who own mortgage securities– servicers themselves don’t actually own the mortgages they handle. This is a recipe for trouble for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest problems is the fact that the nation’s four largest banks also operate the four largest mortgage servicers. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup service about half of all mortgages in the United States. They also have multi-trillion-dollar businesses whose interests often conflict with those of mortgage security investors.

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‘SHITTY BANK BANKS’ Might Go Belly UP After Foreclosure Mess Hit The Fan- Secrets Of Traders

‘SHITTY BANK BANKS’ Might Go Belly UP After Foreclosure Mess Hit The Fan- Secrets Of Traders


I can tell you there is MAJOR, MAJOR panic happening “behind the scenes” since I have started this site I have not seen this kind of activity! All I can say is don’t stop what ever you are doing GMAC or not…

Foreclosure Mess

By: Secrets Of Traders Wednesday, September 22, 2010 11:56 AM

I haven’t seen the following story get much national press (Ok, none. After all, isn’t Lindsey Lohan still in the news?) but if it continues to escalate, we will. The short & sweet of the matter is that it appears most banks do not have clear title to the homes they are foreclosing. In their mad rush to capitalize on the housing bubble, bankers skipped many of the legal steps necessary to have a clear title if things went badly, which is now, and the mortgages that were bundled then securitized as MBSs (mortgage backed securities) may actually belong to the homeowners.If this plays out as described below some banks will go belly-up, which should have happened a long time ago. Since the Treasury & the Federal Reserve will not let their buddies down, however, I am certain that it is already being sorted out in back room deals. “To hell with the LAW” they will say, Shitibank is on the brink of failure.

A member of Congress has already sent a letter to the Florida Supreme Court requesting it make an order to abate all foreclosure procedures until Florida can complete investigations into the matter. A portion of Representative Grayson’s letter is below.

I respectfully request that you abate all foreclosures involving these firms until the Attorney General of the state of Florida has finished his investigations of those firms for document fraud.

I have included a court order, in which Chase, WAMU, and Shapiro and Fishman are excoriated by a judge for document fraud on the court. In this case, Chase attempted to foreclose on a home, when the mortgage note was actually owned by Fannie Mae.

Taking someone’s home should not be done lightly. And it should certainly be done in accordance with the law.

This original post can be found here

Ok, we now appear to have a pattern of conduct here where organizations trying to foreclose on homeowners are in fact submitting forged (that is, willfully known to be false) affidavits to courts around the nation.

First we had GMAC, now it appears we have JPM/Chase. Everyone’s scrambling on this, of course.

But as I pointed out, the real panic is likely still to come, because I have reason to believe (but cannot yet prove) that many if not most of the non-agency securitizations were defective at the outset.

Worse, they’re now trying to cover it up. I am amassing more and more information on the mess, and what I’m seeing is increasingly looking like a pattern of conduct that may well go far beyond “innocent mistakes” or “accidents.”

So let’s take a close look at this problem, and how we can fix it.

There’s a real visceral outrage at letting people have a “free house.” But is it really a perversity of justice if that’s what happens in point of fact – or effect? Maybe not.

Look, if I want to write you a signature loan for $200,000, I have every right to do it. If you don’t pay I’m screwed in such a case, because I have no security interest.

Continue reading …iSTOCKANALYST

.

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Posted in assignment of mortgage, bifurcate, chain in title, conflict of interest, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, deed of trust, Economy, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, forgery, jeffrey stephan, jpmorgan chase, MERS, MERSCORP, Moratorium, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., note, rmbs, robo signers, securitization, stopforeclosurefraud.com, sub-prime, trade secrets, trustee, TrustsComments (3)

Treasury Makes Shocking Admission: Program for Struggling Homeowners Just a Ploy to Enrich Big Banks

Treasury Makes Shocking Admission: Program for Struggling Homeowners Just a Ploy to Enrich Big Banks


The Treasury Dept.’s mortgage relief program isn’t just failing, it’s actively funneling money from homeowners to bankers, and Treasury likes it that way.

August 25, 2010 |AlterNet / By Zach Carter

The Treasury Department’s plan to help struggling homeowners has been failing miserably for months. The program is poorly designed, has been poorly implemented and only a tiny percentage of borrowers eligible for help have actually received any meaningful assistance. The initiative lowers monthly payments for borrowers, but fails to reduce their overall debt burden, often increasing that burden, funneling money to banks that borrowers could have saved by simply renting a different home. But according to recent startling admissions from top Treasury officials, the mortgage plan was actually not really about helping borrowers at all. Instead, it was simply one element of a broader effort to pump money into big banks and shield them from losses on bad loans. That’s right: Treasury openly admitted that its only serious program purporting to help ordinary citizens was actually a cynical move to help Wall Street megabanks.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has long made it clear his financial repair plan was based on allowing large banks to “earn” their way back to health. By creating conditions where banks could make easy profits, Getithner and top officials at the Federal Reserve hoped to limit the amount of money taxpayers would have to directly inject into the banks. This was never the best strategy for fixing the financial sector, but it wasn’t outright predation, either. But now the Treasury Department is making explicit that it was—and remains—willing to let those so-called “earnings” come directly at the expense of people hit hardest by the recession: struggling borrowers trying to stay in their homes.

This account comes secondhand from a cadre of bloggers who were invited to speak on “deep background” with a handful of Treasury officials—meaning that bloggers would get to speak frankly with top-level folks, but not quote them directly, or attribute views to specific people. But the accounts are all generally distressing, particularly this one from economics whiz Steve Waldman:

The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system,” “the economy,” and “ordinary Americans.”

Mike Konczal confirms Waldman’s observation, and Felix Salmon also says the program has done little more than delay foreclosures, as does Shahien Nasiripour.

Here’s how Geithner’s Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP) works, or rather, doesn’t work. Troubled borrowers can apply to their banks for relief on monthly mortgage payments. Banks who agree to participate in HAMP also agree to do a bunch of things to reduce the monthly payments for borrowers, from lowering interest rates to extending the term of the loan. This is good for the bank, because they get to keep accepting payments from borrowers without taking a big loss on the loan.

But the deal is not so good for homeowners. Banks don’t actually have to reduce how much borrowers actually owe them—only how much they have to pay out every month. For borrowers who owe tens of thousands of dollars more than their home is worth, the deal just means that they’ll be pissing away their money to the bank more slowly than they were before. If a homeowner spends $3,000 a month on her mortgage, HAMP might help her get that payment down to $2,500. But if she still owes $50,000 more than her house is worth, the plan hasn’t actually helped her. Even if the borrower gets through HAMP’s three-month trial period, the plan has done nothing but convince her to funnel another $7,500 to a bank that doesn’t deserve it.

Most borrowers go into the program expecting real relief. After the trial period, most realize that it doesn’t actually help them, and end up walking away from the mortgage anyway. These borrowers would have been much better off simply finding a new place to rent without going through the HAMP rigamarole. This example is a good case, one where the bank doesn’t jack up the borrower’s long-term debt burden in exchange for lowering monthly payments

But the benefit to banks goes much deeper. On any given mortgage, it’s almost always in a bank’s best interest to cut a deal with borrowers. Losses from foreclosure are very high, and if a bank agrees to reduce a borrower’s debt burden, it will take an upfront hit, but one much lower than what it would ultimately take from foreclosure.

That logic changes dramatically when millions of loans are defaulting at once. Under those circumstances, bank balance sheets are so fragile they literally cannot afford to absorb lots of losses all at once. But if those foreclosures unravel slowly, over time, the bank can still stay afloat, even if it has to bear greater costs further down the line. As former Deutsche Bank executive Raj Date told me all the way back in July 2009:

If management is only seeking to maximize value for their existing shareholders, it’s possible that maybe they’re doing the right thing. If you’re able to let things bleed out slowly over time but still generate some earnings, if it bleeds slow enough, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, because you never have to issue more stock and dilute your shareholders. You could make an argument from the point of view of any bank management team that not taking a day-one hit is actually a smart idea.

Date, it should be emphasized, does not condone this strategy. He now heads the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, and is a staunch advocate of financial reform.

If, say, Wells Fargo had taken a $20 billion hit on its mortgage book in February 2009, it very well could have failed. But losing a few billion dollars here and there over the course of three or four years means that Wells Fargo can stay in business and keep paying out bonuses, even if it ultimately sees losses of $25 or $30 billion on its bad loans.

So HAMP is doing a great job if all you care about is the solvency of Wall Street banks. But if borrowers know from the get-go they’re not going to get a decent deal, they have no incentive to keep paying their mortgage. Instead of tapping out their savings and hitting up relatives for help with monthly payments, borrowers could have saved their money, walked away from the mortgage and found more sensible rental housing. The administration’s plan has effectively helped funnel more money to Wall Street at the expense of homeowners. And now the Treasury Department is going around and telling bloggers this is actually a positive feature of the program, since it meant that big banks didn’t go out of business.

There were always other options for dealing with the banks and preventing foreclosures. Putting big, faltering banks into receivership—also known as “nationalization”—has been a powerful policy tool used by every administration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. When the government takes over a bank, it forces it to take those big losses upfront, wiping out shareholders in the process. Investors lose a lot of money (and they should, since they made a lousy investment), but the bank is cleaned up quickly and can start lending again. No silly games with borrowers, and no funky accounting gimmicks.

Most of the blame for the refusal to nationalize failing Wall Street titans lies with the Bush administration, although Obama had the opportunity to make a move early in his tenure, and Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Geithner, was a major bailout decision-maker on the Bush team as president of the New York Fed.

But Bush cannot be blamed for the HAMP nightmare, and plenty of other options were available for coping with foreclosure when Obama took office. One of the best solutions was just endorsed by the Cleveland Federal Reserve, in the face of prolonged and fervent opposition from the bank lobby. Unlike every other form of consumer debt, mortgages are immune from renegotiation in bankruptcy. If you file for bankruptcy, a judge literally cannot reduce how much you owe on your mortgage. The only way out of the debt is foreclosure, giving banks tremendous power in negotiations with borrowers.

This exemption is arbitrary and unfair, but the bank lobby contends it keeps mortgage rates lower. It’s just not true, as a new paper by Cleveland Fed economists Thomas J. Fitzpatrick IV and James B. Thomson makes clear. Family farms were exempted from bankruptcy until 1986, and bankers bloviated about the same imminent risk of unaffordable farm loans when Congress considered ending that status to prevent farm foreclosures.

When Congress did repeal the exemption, farm loans didn’t get any more expensive, and bankruptcy filings didn’t even increase very much. Instead, a flood of farmers entered into negotiations with banks to have their debt burden reduced. Banks took losses, but foreclosures were avoided. Society was better off, even if bank investors had to take a hit.

But instead, Treasury is actively encouraging troubled homeowners to subsidize giant banks. What’s worse, as Mike Konczal notes, they’re hoping to expand the program significantly.

There is a flip-side to the current HAMP nightmare, one that borrowers faced with mortgage problems should attend to closely and discuss with financial planners. In many cases, banks don’t actually want to foreclose quickly, because doing so entails taking losses right away, and most of them would rather drag those losses out over time. The accounting rules are so loose that banks can actually book phantom “income” on monthly payments that borrowers do not actually make. Some borrowers have been able to benefit from this situation by simply refusing to pay their mortgages. Since banks often want to delay repossessing the house in order to benefit from tricky accounting, borrowers can live rent-free in their homes for a year or more before the bank finally has to lower the hatchet. Of course, you won’t hear Treasury encouraging people to stop paying their mortgages. If too many people just stop paying, then banks are out a lot of money fast, sparking big, quick losses for banks — the exact situation HAMP is trying to avoid.

Borrowers who choose not to pay their mortgages don’t even have to feel guilty about it. Refusing to pay is actually modestly good for the economy, since instead of wasting their money on bank payments, borrowers have more cash to spend at other businesses, creating demand and encouraging job growth. By contrast, top-level Treasury officials who have enriched bankers on the backs of troubled borrowers should be looking for other lines of work.

Zach Carter is AlterNet’s economics editor. He is a fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, writes a weekly blog on the economy for the Media Consortium and is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine.

Source: AlterNet

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