The Principal – Agent Problem: Part I – RMBS Data Integrity
Back near the dawn of time when I was in business school, and the faculty was hard-pressed to find topics to fill up the curriculum, they introduced the Principal – Agent Problem. As future corporate managers and agents of the stockholders, I suppose they wanted to explain to us that our economic interests were not identical to those of the owners. This wasn’t exactly the most shocking news we had ever received, but that was all that was said about the issue, back then.
Of course, there is considerably more to this multi-faceted problem. According to Wikipedia, “The principal–agent problem arises when a principal compensates an agent for performing certain acts that are useful to the principal and costly to the agent, and where there are elements of the performance that are costly to observe,” primarily due to asymmetric information, uncertainty and risk.
Let’s look at the relationship between the RMBS bondholder…
Abstract: This report assesses the prospects of the U.S. housing/mortgage sector over the next several years. Based on our analysis, we believe there are elements in place for the housing sector to continue to experience growth well above GDP. However, we believe there are risks that can materially distort the growth prospects of the sector. Specifically, it appears that a large portion of the housing sector’s growth in the 1990’s came from the easing of the credit underwriting process. Such easing includes:
* The drastic reduction of minimum down payment levels from 20% to 0% * A focused effort to target the “low income” borrower * The reduction in private mortgage insurance requirements on high loan to value mortgages * The increasing use of software to streamline the origination process and modify/recast delinquent loans in order to keep them classified as “current” * Changes in the appraisal process which has led to widespread overappraisal/over-valuation problems
If these trends remain in place, it is likely that the home purchase boom of the past decade will continue unabated. Despite the increasingly more difficult economic environment, it may be possible for lenders to further ease credit standards and more fully exploit less penetrated markets. Recently targeted populations that have historically been denied homeownership opportunities have offered the mortgage industry novel hurdles to overcome. Industry participants in combination with eased regulatory standards and the support of the GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprises) have overcome many of them.
If there is an economic disruption that causes a marked rise in unemployment, the negative impact on the housing market could be quite large. These impacts come in several forms. They include a reduction in the demand for homeownership, a decline in real estate prices and increased foreclosure expenses.
These impacts would be exacerbated by the increasing debt burden of the U.S. consumer and the reduction of home equity available in the home. Although we have yet to see any materially negative consequences of the relaxation of credit standards, we believe the risk of credit relaxation and leverage can’t be ignored. Importantly, a relatively new method of loan forgiveness can temporarily alter the perception of credit health in the housing sector. In an effort to keep homeowners in the home and reduce foreclosure expenses, holders of mortgage assets are currently recasting or modifying troubled loans. Such policy initiatives may for a time distort the relevancy of delinquency and foreclosure statistics. However, a protracted housing slowdown could eventually cause modifications to become uneconomic and, thus, credit quality statistics would likely become relevant once again. The virtuous circle of increasing homeownership due to greater leverage has the potential to become a vicious cycle of lower home prices due to an accelerating rate of foreclosures.
Presented: 2002 Mid-Year Meeting American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association National Association of Home Builders Washington, DC May 28-29, 2002.
Recent operational risk downgrades of various mega-servicers of securitized residential mortgage loans by Fitch Ratings indicate the agency is staying true to its resolution to start a new era in mortgage banking evaluations. It appears to involve more frequent updates of rating criteria.
Diane Pendley, Fitch’s managing director, told this publication the agency’s ratings program is “emphasizing the higher expected levels of performance for servicers” based on developing best practices and proposed new regulation. It is the second expansive downgrade since November 2010 when Fitch assigned a negative outlook to the U.S. residential mortgage servicer sector.
This month Fitch downgraded the RMBS servicer ratings of Bank of America, CitiMortgage Inc., MetLife Bank, PNC Bank, Suntrust Mortgage Inc., Wells Fargo Bank, BAC Home Loans Servicing and Chase Home Finance.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
NATIONAL CREDIT UNION
ADMINISTRATION BOARD, as
Liquidating Agent of U.S. Central Federal
Credit Union Western Corporate Federal
Credit Union, Members United Corporate
Federal Credit Union, and Southwest
Corporate Federal Credit Union,
J.P. MORGAN SECURITIES LLC., J.P.
CORPORATION I, AMERICAN HOME
MORTGAGE ASSETS LLC, INDYMAC
MBS, INC., and BOND
Sit down and relax… you’re going to need a comfortable chair. But, I promise you… it’ll be worth it.
In the fall of 2008, news stories about “scammers” taking advantage of homeowners at risk of foreclosure started appearing frequently in the media. I remember watching a prime-time national news magazine type program, I think it was 20/20, that was airing a story that featured a sleazy looking middle-age man in Denver, hurriedly walking from a small, strip mall store front to his car, his hand covering his face, as a reporter tried to ask him questions that he obviously did not plan to answer.
The story involved a company that had charged a handful of homeowners several thousand dollars up front to help them negotiate with their banks to get their mortgages modified. The core issue being raised by the show’s host was that the homeowners had been victims of a scam because, as a couple of the homeowners interviewed were saying, their loans had not yet been modified.
I remember wondering, to begin with, how in the world such a story had become the subject of a national news magazine television program. I mean, “Three homeowners get ripped off by small business in Denver,” is not usually the sort of event that makes national headlines. The implication being made was that this case was emblematic of a more widespread problem, but nothing further was offered in the way of proof… no statistics, no additional facts… just statements about how homeowners should NEVER pay anyone up front to help them negotiate with their bank over a loan modification because they were “scammers.”
This paper explores the economic and legal causes and consequences of the 2007-2008 credit crisis. We provide basic descriptive statistics and institutional details on the mortgage origination process, mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). We examine a number of aspects of these markets, including the identity of MBS and CDO sponsors, CDO trustees, CDO liquidations, MBS insured and registered amounts, the evolution of MBS tranche structure over time, mortgage originations, underwriting quality of mortgage originations, and write downs of the commercial and investment banks. In light of this discussion, the paper then addresses questions as to whether these difficulties might have been foreseen, and some of the main legal issues that will play an important role in the extensive litigation (summarized in the paper) that is underway, including the Rule 10b-5 class actions that have already been filed against the banks, pending ERISA litigation, the causes-of-action available to MBS and CDO purchasers, and litigation against the rating agencies. In the course of this discussion, the paper discusses three distinctions that will likely prove central in the resolution of the securities class action litigation: (1) “no fraud by hindsight”; (2) “truth on the market”; and (3) loss causation.
In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in February 2010, Michael A.J. Farrell, Chairman, CEO, Annaly Capital Management, provided an excellent overview of the current market for RMBS. People involved in the discussions about housing market reform should read Farrell’s testimony carefully. He notes that of $7.5 trillion in RMBS funded by private investors, $5.5 trillion is held by rate sensitive investors in Agency MBS, with about $2 trillion in credit sensitive private label MBS. He also stated that:
“The balance, or about $2.5 trillion, is held in raw loan form, primarily on bank balance sheets. Since our country’s banks have about $12 trillion in total assets, there is not enough money in the banking system to fund our nation’s housing stock, at least not at current levels. It is thus axiomatic that without a healthy securitization market our housing finance system would have to undergo a radical transformation.”
And this is why the states should takeover the loans from 2003-2008. The banks HAVE to foreclose. They cannot hold all the mortgages. They wrote more than they can hold.
By using MERS and other special purpose vehicles to hold mortgages rather than keep them on the banks’ books, the banks lived in a fantasyland. They insured their risk which was a double edge sword; however, they took no responsibility for the volume of loans they wrote.
It’s akin to taking the pill, having numerous partners and thinking you can’t get VD. Only the banks weren’t naive – they were greedy and irresponsible.
It’s only a matter of time before the fact that these banks collected insurance and TARP on these loans and then continued to try and collect from the borrowers starts to come to light – and that would appear to be insurance fraud… probably the main reason for the foreclosures in the first place.
And so it begins. We’re about to witness the main event in financial institution internecine warefare: investment funds (MBS buyers) vs. banks (MBS sellers).
There have already been some opening skirmishes. The monoline bond insurers (MBIA, Syncora, FGIC, Ambac (and here), CIFG (and here), and–I haven’t found any litigation with them on this, but there’s gotta be some–ACA) have been litigating against some of the banks whose securitizations they insured for various fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of warranty claims. Many of the Federal Home Loan Banks (Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, maybe others that I don’t recall of the top of my head), which slurped up RMBS during the bubble, only to find them toxic, have brought (separate) suits mainly on securities fraud charges, but also on common law fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims. (See here for a totally dated, August 2010 estimation of the liabilities in these suits.)
Then last fall the financial world was shaken by the New York Fed, BlackRock, and PIMCO’s demand letter to Bank of New York Mellon and Countrywide. That showed that A-list financial institutions were taking the range of problems with RMBS, from representation and warranty breaches to servicer malfeasance, seriously. (You can see the NY Fed, acting for the Maiden Lane LLCs, as really another representing AIG, essentially the mother of all monolines for these purposes.) But that wasn’t litigation proper, just an angry growl, with a threat of litigation if things weren’t resolved. (When you see the letterhead for the response, you’ll see that BoA/CW is taking this mighty seriously. Despite the typo in that snippy letter, it didn’t come cheap. These guys are lawyering up.)
Ginnie Mae is pleased to announce that it has joined with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) in adopting the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization’s (“MISMO”) Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset (“ULDD”) for delivering loan information to the agencies. The GSEs have been working on this effort; and, announced to their respective program participants that effective September 1, 2011, and forward, all loans delivered to the GSEs will be required to be transmitted to the GSEs using the ULDD specifications.
The mortgage finance industry supports the adoption of standards and common file formats, as they lead to higher quality data, less rework, and lower costs for all participants in the industry, including borrowers.
I. Goldman Performed Increasingly Careful Due Diligence On Billions Of Dollars Of Subprime Mortgage Loans That It Purchased During 2005 And 2006, And Therefore Knew That Large Numbers Of Those Loans Were Defective.
II. Goldman Knew That Mortgage Loans And RMBS issued By Countrywide, New Century, And Fremont During 2005 And 2006 Had Declined Dramatically In Safety, Security, And Likelihood of Repayment.
“Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not simply market-makers, they were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis…They bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the instruments they sold and profiting at the expense of their clients…The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous revenues by betting against residential related products’…These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”
I was impressed with Mrs. Thompson and her knowledge. Excellent read with Mr. Levitin’s testimony.
What robo-signing reveals is the contempt that servicers have long exhibited for rules, whether
the rules of court procedure flouted in the robo-signing scandal or the contract rules breached in
the common misapplication of payments or the rules for HAMP modifications, honored more
often in the breach than in reality. Servicers do not believe that the rules that apply to everyone
else apply to them. This lawless attitude, supported by financial incentives and too-often
tolerated by regulators, is the root cause of the robo-signing scandal, the failure of HAMP, and
the wrongful foreclosure of countless American families.
The falsification of judicial foreclosure documents is closely and directly tied to widespread
errors and maladministration of HAMP and non-HAMP modification programs, and the forcedplaced
insurance and escrow issues. Homeowners for decades have complained about servicer
abuses that pushed them into foreclosure without cause, stripped equity, and resulted, all too
often, in wrongful foreclosure. In recent months, investors have come to realize that servicers’
abuses strip wealth from investors as well.3 Unless and until servicers are held to account for
their behavior, we will continue to see fundamental flaws in mortgage servicing, with cascading
costs throughout our society. The lack of restraint on servicer abuses has created a moral hazard
juggernaut that at best prolongs and deepens the current foreclosure crisis and at worst threatens
our global economic security.
The current robo-signing scandal is a symptom of the flagrant disregard adopted by servicers as
to the basic legal and business conventions that govern most transactions. This flagrant
disregard has been carried through every aspect of servicer’s business model. Servicers rely on
extracting payments from borrowers as quickly and cheaply as possible; this model is at odds
with notions of due process, judicial integrity, or transparent financial accounting. The current
foreclosure crisis has exposed these inherent contradictions, but the failures and abuses are
neither new nor isolated. Solutions must include but go beyond addressing the affidavit and
ownership issues raised most recently. Those issues are merely symptoms of the core problem:
servicers’ failure to service loans, account for payments, limit fees to reasonable and necessary
ones, and provide loan modifications where appropriate and necessary to restore loans to
Diane E. Thompson has represented low-income homeowners since 1994. She currently works of counsel for the National Consumer Law Center. From 1994 to 2007, Ms. Thompson represented individual low-income homeowners in East St. Louis at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. While at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, Ms. Thompson served as the Homeownership Specialist, providing assistance to casehandlers representing homeowners in 65 counties in downstate Illinois, and the Supervising Attorney of the Housing and Consumer unit of the East St. Louis office. She has served on the boards of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council. She was a member of the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board from 2003-2005. Between 1995 and 2001, Ms. Thompson served as corporate counsel to the largest private nonprofit affordable housing provider in the East St. Louis metropolitan area. She received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. from New York University.
Watched the hearing yesterday and Mr. Levitin was extremely impressive!
Please watch the video for explosive info regarding securitization, “Nothing-Backed Securities”…transfers are void!
Sorry for the quality but was the best I could do.
Written Testimony of
Adam J. Levitin
Associate Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
“Problems in Mortgage Servicing from Modification to Foreclosure”
November 16, 2010
A number of events over the past several months have roiled the mortgage world, raising
(1) Whether there is widespread fraud in the foreclosure process;
(2) Securitization chain of title, namely whether the transfer of mortgages in the
securitization process was defective, rendering mortgage-backed securities into non-mortgagebacked
(3) Whether the use of the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) creates
legal defects in either the secured status of a mortgage loan or in mortgage assignments;
(4) Whether mortgage servicers’ have defaulted on their servicing contracts by charging
predatory fees to borrowers that are ultimately paid by investors;
(5) Whether investors will be able to “putback” to banks securitized mortgages on the
basis of breaches of representations and warranties about the quality of the mortgages.
These issues are seemingly disparate and unconnected, other than that they all involve
mortgages. They are, however, connected by two common threads: the necessity of proving
standing in order to maintain a foreclosure action and the severe conflicts of interests between
mortgage servicers and MBS investors.
It is axiomatic that in order to bring a suit, like a foreclosure action, the plaintiff must
have legal standing, meaning it must have a direct interest in the outcome of the legislation. In
the case of a mortgage foreclosure, only the mortgagee has such an interest and thus standing.
Many of the issues relating to foreclosure fraud by mortgage servicers, ranging from more minor
procedural defects up to outright counterfeiting relate to the need to show standing. Thus
problems like false affidavits of indebtedness, false lost note affidavits, and false lost summons
affidavits, as well as backdated mortgage assignments, and wholly counterfeited notes,
mortgages, and assignments all relate to the evidentiary need to show that the entity bringing the
foreclosure action has standing to foreclose.
Concerns about securitization chain of title also go to the standing question; if the
mortgages were not properly transferred in the securitization process (including through the use
of MERS to record the mortgages), then the party bringing the foreclosure does not in fact own
the mortgage and therefore lacks standing to foreclose. If the mortgage was not properly
transferred, there are profound implications too for investors, as the mortgage-backed securities
they believed they had purchased would, in fact be non-mortgage-backed securities, which
would almost assuredly lead investors to demand that their investment contracts be rescinded,
thereby exacerbating the scale of mortgage putback claims.
Page 23359 -Is the approach to asset number identifier workable? Should we only require or permit one type of asset number for all asset classes? If so, which one would be most useful? It appears that our proposed naming convention of “[CIKnumber]-[Sequential asset number]” would be applicable to all asset classes. Does the use of an asset number alleviate potential privacy issues for the underlying obligor? Why or why not? What issues arise if the asset number is determined by the registrant? Would there be any issues with investors being able to specifically identify each asset and follow its performance through periodic reporting.
MISMO does not believe that a single asset numbering system should be required across all asset classes. The industry infrastructure behind each asset class is supported by different systems and business processes. Each ABS participant industry (e.g. residential real estate finance) should be able to utilize an asset numbering system as efficiency and convention dictate, absent a compelling regulatory purpose.
In the mortgage sphere, the MERS Mortgage Identification Number (MIN) has been in use since 1997 and has been assigned to over 65 million loans. The MIN is a combination of a unique loan identifier for the originating lender plus the loan’s internal file number. It is available for residential, multifamily and commercial loans. It can attach to a mortgage as early as the application for a loan. The MIN is then used to track a loan throughout its life cycle, from application through monthly servicing activities until final loan payoff. It is used also used within the loss mitigation and Real Estate Owned (REO) processes. The MIN is well integrated within all facets of the real estate finance industry.
The adoption of a new, different, and/or conflicting numbering system would result in greater confusion, unnecessary system development costs, longer lead times for compliance and decreased transparency by making it more difficult for industry participants to track assets across multiple data and reporting systems. The real estate finance industry would be required to add the new asset number to all of its applications, databases, and file transfers between applications. In certain situations, a new asset number may have unintended consequences in the primary residential mortgage market. If a lender has to decide at the time of application whether to employ the MIN or some other loan numbering system based on the lender’s estimation that the borrower may not qualify for a conforming loan (loans meeting the criteria of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) or governmental mortgage (loans meeting the criteria of FHA, VA, or the Rural Housing Service), then the Proposal could unintentionally steer applicants to particular loan types. Alternatively, if a lender starts down one path and then needs to re-key an application, the chances for error increase.
The MIN is the only universally accepted identifier for loans in the mortgage industry across the entire lifecycle of the loan. The major participants in the residential mortgage industry utilize the MIN. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae all utilize the MIN. MISMO encourages the SEC to adopt the MERS Mortgage Identification Number (MIN) as the primary loan identifier for real estate finance ABS.
As long as the proposed data elements cannot be associated with a specific individual, there should not be privacy concerns with this information being made publically available. In anticipation of this requirement, MERS has designed and will implement a public version of the MIN that issuers would use in their public disclosure file format that could not be used to identify an individual associated with the required data.
To address the possibility of duplicate loan identifiers across different ABS industries (e.g. real estate finance and credit cards), a unique identifier can be provided with file submissions to denote a particular asset class, avoiding the drastic impact of imposing a whole new numbering system on an industry.
Retired judges are rushing through complex cases to speed foreclosures in Florida
By Matt Taibbi
Nov 10, 2010 2:25 PM EST
The following is an article from the November 11, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone. This issue is available Friday on newsstands, as well online in Rolling Stone’s digital archive. Click here to subscribe.
The foreclosure lawyers down in Jacksonville had warned me, but I was skeptical. They told me the state of Florida had created a special super-high-speed housing court with a specific mandate to rubber-stamp the legally dicey foreclosures by corporate mortgage pushers like Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase. This “rocket docket,” as it is called in town, is presided over by retired judges who seem to have no clue about the insanely complex financial instruments they are ruling on — securitized mortgages and labyrinthine derivative deals of a type that didn’t even exist when most of them were active members of the bench. Their stated mission isn’t to decide right and wrong, but to clear cases and blast human beings out of their homes with ultimate velocity. They certainly have no incentive to penetrate the profound criminal mysteries of the great American mortgage bubble of the 2000s, perhaps the most complex Ponzi scheme in human history — an epic mountain range of corporate fraud in which Wall Street megabanks conspired first to collect huge numbers of subprime mortgages, then to unload them on unsuspecting third parties like pensions, trade unions and insurance companies (and, ultimately, you and me, as taxpayers) in the guise of AAA-rated investments. Selling lead as gold, shit as Chanel No. 5, was the essence of the booming international fraud scheme that created most all of these now-failing home mortgages.
Investors are looking for banks to buy back potentially fraudulent residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). “The Strategy Session” hosts discuss this topic with Talcott Franklin, the principal of Talcott Franklin PC, whose firm has organized a RMBS clearinghouse on behalf of investors.
HOUSTON, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ –Today, the holders of over 25% of the Voting Rights in more than $47 billion of Countrywide-issued RMBS sent a Notice of Non-Performance (Notice) to Countrywide Home Loan Servicing, as Master Servicer (“Countrywide Servicing”), and to Bank of New York, as Trustee, identifying specific covenants in 115 Pooling and Servicing Agreements (PSAs) that the Holders allege Countrywide Servicing has failed to perform.
The Holders’ Notice alleges that each of these failures has materially affected the rights of the Certificateholders under the relevant PSAs. Under Section 7.01 of the PSAs, if any of the cited failures “continues unremedied for a period of 60 days after the date on which written notice of such failure has been given … to the Master Servicer and the Trustee by the Holders of Certificates evidencing not less than 25% of the Voting Rights evidenced by the Certificates,” that failure constitutes an Event of Default under the PSAs.
In a previous release, the Holders emphasized their intent to invoke all contractual remedies available to them to recover their losses and to protect their rights. Kathy Patrick of Gibbs & Bruns LLP, lead counsel for the Holders, emphasized that the Holders’ notice does not seek to halt loan modifications for troubled borrowers. Instead, it urges the Trustee to enforce Countrywide Servicing’s obligations to service loans prudently by maintaining accurate loan records, demanding the repurchase of loans that were originated in violation of underwriting guidelines, and compelling the sellers of ineligible or predatory mortgages to bear the costs of modifying them for homeowners or repurchasing them from the Trusts’ collateral pools.
Patrick also noted that the group of Holders that tendered today’s Notice of Non-Performance is larger, and encompasses more Countrywide-issued RMBS deals, than were included in the August 20 instruction letter. When asked why the group of holders was larger, Patrick replied, “Ours is a large, determined, and cohesive group of bondholders. We have a clearly defined strategy. We plan to vigorously pursue this initiative to enforce Holders’ rights.”
The Notice of Non-Performance, which is the first step in the process of declaring an Event of Default, was issued on behalf of Holders in the following Countrywide-issued RMBS: