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Analysts Question a Threat by Fannie

Analysts Question a Threat by Fannie


By DAVID STREITFELD Published: June 24, 2010

Fannie Mae’s decision to begin punishing people who walk away from their unpaid mortgages could prove difficult to sell to the public and might be impossible to execute, housing and lending experts said Thursday.

The big mortgage financing company, which owns or guarantees millions of mortgages, announced on Wednesday that it would sue homeowners who have the capacity to pay but default anyway. It also said it would prevent these strategic defaulters from getting a new Fannie Mae-backed loan for seven years, which could potentially shut millions of buyers out of the market.

But it was unclear, the experts said, why Fannie Mae was threatening delinquent owners and what it hoped to achieve. The new direction seems to run counter to the Obama administration’s efforts to reinvigorate the housing market. And there were basic questions about how Fannie would be able to distinguish between those homeowners who defaulted intentionally and the unfortunate ones who had no choice.

“How are they going to do this, and for what result?” asked Grant Stern, president of the Morningside Mortgage Corporation on Bay Harbor Islands, Fla. “So they can find the people who have a little money left after their house crashed and take it away from them?”

A Fannie Mae spokeswoman said that the goal of the new punitive policies was to force defaulting homeowners to work with their servicers to surrender their houses through either a lender-approved short sale or by formally giving up the deed.

“We really want to encourage borrowers to pursue alternatives to foreclosure,” said the spokeswoman, Janis Smith.

Fannie’s newly aggressive stance comes as the debate is heating up over how much, if at all, borrowers should be held liable for their foreclosures.

Republicans recently added a measure to a Federal Housing Administration financing bill in the House of Representatives that would forbid strategic defaulters from getting an F.H.A.-insured loan.

The California Legislature is debating a proposed law that goes in the other direction, shielding many more delinquent borrowers from debt collectors.

Fannie and its sister company, Freddie Mac, control 30 million mortgages, providing liquidity to the housing market. They have been under government conservatorship since September 2008; the ultimate cost of the rescue to taxpayers might hit $400 billion.

Chris Dickerson of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie, said, “We support Fannie Mae taking a policy position that discourages borrowers who can afford to pay their mortgage from walking away.”

Fannie Mae will announce the details of its new program next month, when the servicers who collect mortgage payments on Fannie’s loans will get explicit instructions on how to make recommendations for lawsuits.

But for some in the mortgage business, the new direction seemed little more than a cruel joke.

“Fannie wants to lock people up in a jail of negative net worth for much of the rest of their lives,” said Lou Barnes, a Colorado mortgage banker. “They’re bringing back the debtor’s prison.”

The plan poses some political problems as well as practical ones. Fannie Mae might be a ward of the government but its new policy is at distinct odds with the Obama administration, which has been trying to restart the fragile housing market by lowering interest rates, offering tax credits and insuring millions of new loans.

A Treasury Department spokesman said Fannie Mae’s plan did not represent official Obama administration policy. A spokesman for Freddie Mac said it was closely following Fannie’s moves but had not yet adopted them.

Strategic defaults have been a rising concern for years. Lenders first noticed people purposefully ditching their houses early in the financial crisis. In late 2007, Kenneth D. Lewis, then chief executive of Bank of America, said people were remaining current on their credit cards but defaulting on their home loans, a phenomenon that he said “astonished” him.

The lenders are less surprised now, but perhaps more worried. Bank of America said recently that it was putting owners in danger of foreclosure into payment plans that were supposed to be affordable — but that a third of the borrowers were failing to pay anyway.

“You could say the customer is choosing not to make those payments,” said Jack Schakett, credit loss mitigation executive for Bank of America Home Loans.

Borrowers who stop paying the mortgage can get a year of free rent, and sometimes two. “There is a huge incentive for customers to walk away,” Mr. Schakett said in a recent media briefing.

Fannie is not saying how many of its borrowers are strategically defaulting. The firm’s delinquency rate, traditionally about 0.5 percent of its portfolio, began sharply ascending in mid-2007. At the beginning of this year, it leveled off at 5.5 percent.

About a quarter of homeowners with mortgages, or about 11 million households, owe more than their home is worth, and are potentially vulnerable to a strategic default. A flat or rising real estate market could encourage many of them to hold on; a declining market would suggest it was time to go.

Fannie was established as a federal agency in 1938 but was chartered by Congress as a private company in 1968. For years it prospered by virtue of its special status as a government-sponsored entity charged with increasing the nation’s homeownership rate, enriching its shareholders and executives in the process.

During the housing boom Fannie overreached and bought many loans of buyers who were ill-equipped to pay them. Its fate is uncertain; it is not even clear it will be around in seven years to enforce any edicts.

Christopher F. Thornberg, a principal at Beacon Economics who correctly forecast that the housing boom would implode, said he understood what Fannie was trying to do, and even sympathized to a degree.

It is rational economics, he said, to assume that someone who walked away from an unpaid mortgage once might do so again. It also made sense, he said, for Fannie to try to limit strategic defaults from becoming an even bigger problem. And the new program also addresses the moral hazard question, Mr. Thornberg said: If borrowers are not punished for their missteps, they might not learn their lesson and might do it again.

And yet, he noted, the banks were bailed out, and their executives walked away rich. “Why should I pay my dues when they did not?” he said. “There is no clean answer on this.”

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



Posted in fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, Freddie Mac, walk awayComments (0)

Fannie ATTACKS Walk AWAYS!

Fannie ATTACKS Walk AWAYS!


Once more they are going after the WRONG PARTY and they KNOW IT!
Fannie and Freddie were responsible for so much of this meltdown – and now we have to listen to their ranting and thuggery.  Is there a hole deep enough for these guys?
They are so angry because their precious RMBS trusts are being exposed as schemes to loot pension funds, and that will make it harder to sell the next batch of poison they are cooking up.

Taxpayer-Owned Fannie Mae Attacks Struggling Homeowners

First Posted: 06-23-10 11:03 PM   |   Updated: 06-23-10 11:28 PM

Taxpayer-owned mortgage giant Fannie Mae is targeting families by going after struggling homeowners who strategically default on their mortgage, the firm announced Wednesday.

A default is considered strategic when homeowners have the capacity to pay, yet choose to walk away from their mortgage. The trigger, researchers say, is negative equity: When the value of a home is less than what the lender is owed on it, borrowers are more likely to strategically default.

About 11.3 million homeowners with a mortgage, or 24 percent, owe more on their mortgage than the home is worth, according to real estate research firm CoreLogic. Another 2.3 million have less than 5 percent equity in their homes. All told, about 29 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage are either underwater or very close to it. The firm estimates that the typical underwater homeowner won’t return to positive equity until late 2015 or early 2016.

And Fannie Mae, an arm of the federal government and a big part of the Obama administration’s housing policy, wants to make sure that if struggling families walk away, they suffer for it.

Homeowners who strategically default or did not work “in good faith” to avert foreclosure through other means will be ineligible for new Fannie Mae-backed mortgages for seven years. The firm said it will also pursue homeowners in court, seeking so-called “deficiency judgments” to recoup outstanding debt by seizing borrowers’ other assets. Thirty-nine states do not limit the ability of lenders to recover what they’re owed.

Fannie Mae said that next month the firm “will be instructing its servicers to monitor delinquent loans facing foreclosure and put forth recommendations for cases that warrant the pursuit of deficiency judgments.”

“Walking away from a mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities and our approach is meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting,” Terence Edwards, Fannie’s executive vice president for credit portfolio management, said in a statement.

Strategic defaults among homeowners have been on the rise. More than a million homeowners went that route last year, nearly double the amount in 2008 and more than four times the level in 2007, according to a recent analysis by the credit reporting company Experian and Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm. A study by a team of academics from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University estimated that nearly a third of home mortgage defaults in March were strategic. The deeper underwater homeowners are, the more likely they are to walk away from their mortgage, the researchers noted.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a bill barring strategic defaulters from obtaining home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The agency guarantees nearly one in four new mortgages.

“I can’t help but notice that every group now frantically calling for tough penalties for homeowners who walk away was virulently opposed to judicial modification of mortgages in bankruptcy,” Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, told the Huffington Post.

Bank of America and Citigroup, the nation’s largest and third-largest banks by assets, respectively, support changing existing law to give federal judges the power to modify mortgages in bankruptcy, otherwise known as “cramdown.” Proponents argue that if homeowners were able to modify their mortgages in bankruptcy, the number of strategic defaults would substantially decrease, if not nosedive.

About 3 million homes will receive foreclosure notices this year, real estate research firm RealtyTrac estimates. More than 1 million will be repossessed by lenders, adding to the nearly 2.2 million homes that lenders took over from 2007 to 2009.

Fannie Mae and its sister firm Freddie Mac guarantee nearly three out of every four new mortgages, according to leading industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance. The two firms control about $5.5 trillion in home mortgages, according to their federal regulator. That’s nearly half of all outstanding mortgage debt in the U.S. Their share of the mortgage market is nearly double what it was 20 years ago.

Because Fannie controls such a large portion of new mortgage issuance, the freezing out of homeowners for seven years could prove devastating.

Brent T. White, a law professor at the University of Arizona, recently wrote in an academic paper that most homeowners can recover from a foreclosure within two years. In fact, defaulting on a mortgage is not as bad as most people think, White notes.

“Lenders are unlikely to pursue a deficiency judgment even in recourse states because it is economically inefficient to do so; there is no tax liability on ‘forgiven portions’ of home mortgages under current federal tax law in effect until 2012; defaulting on one’s mortgage does not mean that one’s other credit lines will be revoked; and most people can expect to recover from the negative impact of foreclosure on their credit score within two years (and, meanwhile, two years of poor credit need not seriously impact one’s life),” he writes.

There is a “huge financial upside” for seriously underwater homeowners to strategically default on their mortgages, White said.

While it’s still taboo among most homeowners, it’s common behavior among corporations.

In December, Morgan Stanley, the nation’s sixth-biggest bank by assets, walked away from five San Francisco office buildings the $820-billion firm purchased as part of a landmark $2.43-billion deal near the height of the real estate boom. A group led by Tishman Speyer Properties gave up a 56-building apartment complex in Manhattan in January after defaulting on some $4.4 billion in debt. A spokesman for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s biggest municipal pension fund and one of several investors in the venture, told the Huffington Post that they “basically walked away from it.”

Fannie was effectively nationalized in September 2008. Taxpayers own 79.9 percent of Fannie and Freddie. The Obama administration announced on Christmas Eve that it would provide unlimited financial assistance to the firms, disregarding what was a $400 billion cap on taxpayer bailouts. Their debt is backed by the U.S. government.

The two firms, facing growing losses on sour mortgages in perhaps a worsening housing market, have already taken $145 billion from taxpayers. Fannie Mae is responsible for $83.6 billion of that bailout.

Freddie Mac did not say it would take a similar position on strategic defaulters.

“Such so-called strategic defaults, once rare, are now common enough to jeopardize the already-weak housing and mortgage markets,” wrote economists Celia Chen and Cristian deRitis of Moody’s Economy.com in an April 13 note. “If the trend continues, strategic defaults could both accelerate the pace of home foreclosures and also make it harder for new borrowers to obtain mortgages. Both factors would in turn worsen the decline in house prices.”

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s second-largest bank by assets with more than $2.1 trillion, warmed investors last month that underwater homeowners may not continue to make their payments even when they’re able to, according to a May 10 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A top executive at Freddie Mac posted a note on the firm’s website pleading with homeowners to not intentionally walk away from their homes.

“Knowing the costs and factoring in the time horizon, some borrowers have made the calculation that it is better to purposely default on the mortgage. While I understand how that might well be a good decision for certain borrowers, that doesn’t make it good social policy,” Freddie Executive Vice President Don Bisenius argued in a May 3 note.

The firm warned investors and analysts about the risk of increased strategic defaults in March 2008. Referring to it as “ruthlessness,” Dick Syron, Freddie’s former chairman and CEO, said the firm was “seeing an increase in ruthlessness” that had “the potential for changing consumer behavior.”

Fannie Mae said Wednesday that borrowers who have “extenuating circumstances may be eligible for new loan in a shorter timeframe” than the seven-year period it’s warning about.

Republicans in the House recently tried to rein in the twin mortgage giants. Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, attempted Wednesday to amend the financial reform bill under consideration by the House and Senate to mandate that the federal government appoint an inspector general to oversee Fannie and Freddie. The mortgage behemoths’ federal regulator has been operating without an independent watchdog looking over it and Fannie and Freddie since 2008.

Republicans have also tried to amend the bill to subject Fannie and Freddie to the Freedom of Information Act so members of the public can keep tabs on the firms by compelling the disclosure of documents and records.

Both efforts were thwarted by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who ruled that they were not “germane” to the legislation under consideration.

Emails sent after normal business hours to spokesmen for the White House and Treasury Department requesting comment were not returned.

Ryan Grim contributed reporting. THE HUFFINGTON POST

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



Posted in cdo, fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, mbs, trade secrets, TrustsComments (2)


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