Treasury Secretary | FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA

Tag Archive | "Treasury Secretary"

Treasury Investigates Freddie Mac Investment

Treasury Investigates Freddie Mac Investment


Do you think this has anything to do with this? 🙂 How Henry Paulson Tipped Off Hedge Funds of Fannie Mae Rescue

Could he also be tied to this?


Yahoo-

The Treasury Department is investigating a report that Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, bet against homeowners’ ability to refinance their loans even as it was making it more difficult for them to do so, Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said on Monday.

The report came just as the Obama administration had been escalating its efforts to push Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ease conditions for homeowners, including those who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Last Friday, the Treasury announced that it would offer increased incentives to lenders to forgive portions of homeowner debt, saying pointedly that for the first time the incentives would be offered on loans held by Fannie and Freddie.

[YAHOO]

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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

How Henry Paulson Tipped Off Hedge Funds of Fannie Mae Rescue

How Henry Paulson Tipped Off Hedge Funds of Fannie Mae Rescue


I’m sure this is only a “tip” of this iceberg!

Around the conference room table were a dozen or so hedge- fund managers and other Wall Street executives — at least five of them alumni of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., of which Paulson was chief executive officer and chairman from 1999 to 2006. In addition to Eton Park founder Eric Mindich, they included such boldface names as Lone Pine Capital LLC founder Stephen Mandel, Dinakar Singh of TPG-Axon Capital Management LP and Daniel Och of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC.

Business Week-

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stepped off the elevator into the Third Avenue offices of hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management LP in Manhattan. It was July 21, 2008, and market fears were mounting. Four months earlier, Bear Stearns Cos. had sold itself for just $10 a share to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Now, amid tumbling home prices and near-record foreclosures, attention was focused on a new source of contagion: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together had more than $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and other debt outstanding.

[BUSINESS WEEK]

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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (1)

WSJ | Bank Group’s Chief Expects Elizabeth Warren’s Nomination Soon

WSJ | Bank Group’s Chief Expects Elizabeth Warren’s Nomination Soon


Wall Street Journal-

The White House isn’t saying much about whether Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren will be named to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But the head of a key banking industry group believes it will happen soon.

Camden Fine, president and chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said Monday that he sees a “better than even chance” that President Barack Obama will nominate Ms. Warren to lead the new bureau.


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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

NYT | An Advocate Who Scares Republicans

NYT | An Advocate Who Scares Republicans


The Wednesday morning hearing was titled “Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The only witness was the piñata, otherwise known as Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor hired last year by President Obama to get the new bureau — the only new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — up and running. She may or may not be nominated by the president to serve as its first director when it goes live in July, but in the here and now she’s clearly running the joint.

And thus the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.

[Image credit: MSNBC]

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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (2)

Simon Johnson | Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

Simon Johnson | Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth Warren?


By Simon Johnson

The next big political battle in Washington – after the budget debate is declared “over” – will likely feature the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in particular the fight to determine whether Elizabeth Warren can become as the agency’s first official head.

But will this fight feature a classic left vs. right set-piece confirmation showdown in the Senate?  Or it will it be resolved with cloaks and daggers closer to the White House – with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner managing to prevent Professor Warren’s nomination?

There is much to commend the left vs. right scenario.  The Republicans, after all, want to argue that regulation is excessive in general and regulation of financial products is somewhere between unnecessary and dangerous for economic growth in particular.  This theme came up during the Dodd-Frank legislative debate on financial reform last year but it was largely lost in the larger conversation.

Elizabeth not only deserves this,

she earned it.

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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

Testimony of Elizabeth Warren Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Testimony of Elizabeth Warren Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


Testimony of Elizabeth Warren Special Advisor to the
Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Committee on Financial Services
United States House of Representatives
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The current economic crisis began one bad mortgage at a time. Mortgages that promised investors huge profits for low risks were the raw material of the securities that contributed to the near collapse of the worldwide economy. Irresponsible lending that encouraged people to buy homes with no realistic hope of ever paying off their loans has now led millions of families into foreclosure and bankruptcy. If there had been just a few basic rules and a cop on the beat to enforce them, we could have avoided or minimized the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. In the future, the new consumer bureau will be that cop.

[ipaper docId=50869746 access_key=key-a81fljm2c15vhtvrwbm height=600 width=600 /]

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



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

WHY WELLS FARGO MUST BE ORDERED TO STOP ITS FORECLOSURES

WHY WELLS FARGO MUST BE ORDERED TO STOP ITS FORECLOSURES


False Statements

AMERICA’S SERVICING COMPANY
LENDER PROCESSING SERVICES
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.

Action Date: October 7, 2010
Location: Palm Beach County, FL

WHY WELLS FARGO MUST BE ORDERED TO STOP ITS FORECLOSURES. While other banks have acknowledged some problems and halted some foreclosures, Wells Fargo has issued self-serving statements and forged ahead.

Why should Wells Fargo be ordered to stop its foreclosures? First, Wells Fargo’s foreclosure mill, America’s Servicing Company, and its robo-signers John Herman Kennerty, China Brown, Heather Carrico, Natasha Clark and others signed thousands of documents each month with no knowledge of the truth of the matters set forth for the courts in those documents. The sheer volume of the documents signed by Kennerty should be enough to convince any court that Kennerty had no knowledge of the facts.

A court in Brooklyn found a case where Kennerty’s signature was notarized, but actually did not appear on the document. The notary was mindlessly signing a stack of documents.

Which law firms are submitting the Affidavits in Florida for Wells Fargo? Florida Default Law Group and the Law Offices of David Stern, two of the law firms under investigation by the Florida Attorney General. Second, Wells Fargo used Docx in Alpharetta, Georgia to produce mortgage assignments used in thousands of Wells Fargo foreclosures. Many different employees signed the name “Linda Green” on these documents. (For three examples of mortgage assignments used by Wells Fargo, click on the “Pleadings” section of this website – no sign-on is necessary.)

Despite the statements of Lender Processing Services to the contrary, Docx “Linda Green” Affidavits – with many versions of the Linda Green signature – continued to appear in Wells Fargo cases well into 2009. Examples are also in the Pleadings Section. The Perry Affidavit was signed July 10, 2008, but notarized January 15, 2009. The Carrerra Affidavit was signed in January 2008, but notarized in January, 2009. On these few examples, Linda Green is identified as the Vice President of Wells Fargo bank, the Vice President of Sand Canyon Mortgage and the Vice President of American Home Mortgage Servicing. Most are notarized by the same notary, Brittany Snow, who says she has personal knowledge that Linda Green is Vice President of these many entities.

In the first quarter of 2010, Wells Fargo filed 1,117 foreclosure actions in Palm Beach County. In the second quarter, Wells Fargo filed 920 foreclosures in Palm Beach County. In the third quarter, Wells Fargo filed 847 foreclosures. In the vast majority of these foreclosures, Wells Fargo is acting as a trustee for a mortgage-backed securitized trust that cannot even prove that it acquired the mortgages without relying on the Linda Green and John Kennerty documents.

This is not the time to stonewall. THE FDIC AND OCC, THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY AND THE SECRETARY OF HOUSING NEED TO STOP THE WELLS FARGO FORECLOSURES.


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



Posted in assignment of mortgage, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, fraud digest, Lender Processing Services Inc., LPS, Lynn Szymoniak ESQ, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, wells fargoComments (16)

BREAKING NEWS: SECTRETARY of STATE OHIO:CHASE HOME FINANCE & MERS ABUSE!!

BREAKING NEWS: SECTRETARY of STATE OHIO:CHASE HOME FINANCE & MERS ABUSE!!


For Immediate Release

SECRETARY BRUNNER OUTLINES TWO LINES OF ATTACK IN FIGHTING HIGH OHIO FORECLOSURE RATES

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s chief elections officer and the state officer responsible for licensing notary publics, today issued a directive to boards of elections that foreclosures cannot be used without further investigation to disqualify voters and revealed that she has referred specific instances of notary abuse occurring at Chase Home Mortgage in Columbus and by the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) to a federal prosecutor for investigation.

DIRECTIVE ON VOTERS FACING FORECLOSURES: Secretary Brunner, in Directive 2010-66, instructed Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections that they may not cancel an Ohioan’s voter registration based solely on the fact that the person is involved in the foreclosure process.  The filing of a foreclosure action does not affect a voter’s right to vote until there is a final judgment entry, including the passage of at least 30 days from the date of the entry because of the right of appeal, and verification that the person no longer resides at the property. Ohio continues to experience high residential foreclosure rates.

Those who lose their homes because of foreclosure may wait until Election Day to update their address. Boards are instructed in the directive how to help voters displaced because of foreclosure, based on whether they move (1) within the same precinct, (2) within the same county but to a different precinct, or (3) to a different county in Ohio.  Voters facing foreclosure may use their current location of residence as their residence for the purposes of voting.

REFERRAL OF CHASE HOME MORTGAGE AND MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. TO FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Secretary Brunner, in two letters dated Aug. 11, 2010 and Sept. 1, 2010, referred matters of alleged notary abuse in thousands of home mortgage foreclosures by Chase Home Mortgage and the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. to U.S. District Attorney Steven Dettelbach in Cleveland. Citing two depositions, (one & two) of Chase employee Beth Cottrell, taken in Columbus in May of 2010, and a deposition of MERS Secretary and Treasurer, William Hultman taken in New Jersey in April of 2010.  These depositions contain sworn testimony that at Chase Home Mortgage, 18,000 documents per month are executed and notarized per month by eight people, with admissions that:

  1. it is the notary and not the document signer who gives an oath who fills in numbers in the affidavits used in court ordered foreclosures,
  2. no oath is administered for the signing of each document,
  3. notarized documents are not verified by the person signing and giving oath that they have personal knowledge of the contents of the documents, but rather, signers are relying on verification by others,
  4. documents are signed in bulk and notarized in bulk separately,
  5. notaries know this at the time they notarize documents in this process.

The MERS deposition of William Hultman demonstrates that after corporate status changes occurred for MERS, new designations of authority were not executed, leaving one or more individuals for the former MERS corporation continuing to delegate authority on behalf of the new corporation without authorization by the new corporation.

According to its website: “MERS was created by the mortgage banking industry to streamline the mortgage process by using electronic commerce to eliminate paper…MERS acts as nominee in the county land records for the lender and servicer. Any loan registered on the MERS® System is inoculated against future assignments because MERS remains the nominal mortgagee no matter how many times servicing is traded. MERS as original mortgagee (MOM) is approved by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, FHA and VA, California and Utah Housing Finance Agencies, as well as all of the major Wall Street rating agencies.”
MERS was created by the mortgage lending industry to:

  1. eliminate frequent re-recording of liens,
  2. avoid paying county recorder fees and other local taxes as mortgage loans are assigned as backing or securitization for derivatives trading by banks and other financial institutions,
  3. monitor and facilitate the transfer of original mortgage notes in the trading of mortgage-backed securities,
  4. foreclose on mortgage notes for unnamed note holders, even though it is not the real financial party in interest and does not hold the original note for the mortgage.

Currently, over half of all new residential mortgage loans in the U.S. are registered with MERS and recorded in county recording offices in MERS’ name, reducing transparency, leaving consumers unable to determine who actually holds the note on their homes.

Secretary Brunner made the following statement on the situation:
“Mortgage foreclosure documents must be notarized according to the law. Requiring this is not an afterthought or an exercise of form over substance—the law must be followed when taking away someone’s home, regardless of the circumstances.

For too long thousands of homes have been taken from consumers without proof that the foreclosing party actually has that right. Our courts must be cautious and require absolute adherence to the law. As the officer in Ohio who licenses notaries, I cannot stand idly by and watch financial institutions concoct a chain of title they never had by abusing the notary process.

It’s not fair to consumers or to the employees who by virtue of their jobs, are signing these documents. I urge the U.S. Department of Justice to take up this investigation with vigor and purpose to protect consumers and hold financial institutions to the standards of scrutiny and exactitude required by law, even if it means prosecuting some of our largest corporations. These apparent violations of state law point to schemes that merit federal investigation of large institution lending practices and use of the U.S. Postal Service.”

Last week, GMAC Mortgage announced it had suspended evictions and post-foreclosure closings in 23 states over concerns about employees preparing foreclosures with affidavits submitted to judges containing information they did not personally verify. Yesterday it was announced that JPMorgan Chase and Co hired external counsel to review its affidavit process based on the depositions of Beth Cottrell and is delaying approximately 56,000 current foreclosure proceedings.

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



Posted in assignment of mortgage, Beth Cottrell, chain in title, chase, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, deposition, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, forgery, GMAC, investigation, MERS, MERSCORP, Moratorium, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, William C. HultmanComments (3)

INSIDE CHASE and the Perfect Foreclosure

INSIDE CHASE and the Perfect Foreclosure


“JPMorgan CHASE is in the foreclosure business, not the modification business’.”  That, according to Jerad Bausch, who until quite recently was an employee of CHASE’s mortgage servicing division working in the foreclosure department in Rancho Bernardo, California.

I was recently introduced to Jerad and he agreed to an interview.  (Christmas came early this year.)  His answers to my questions provided me with a window into how servicers think and operate.  And some of the things he said confirmed my fears about mortgage servicers… their interests and ours are anything but aligned.

Today, Jerad Bausch is 25 years old, but with a wife and two young children, he communicates like someone ten years older.  He had been selling cars for about three and a half years and was just 22 years old when he applied for a job at JPMorgan CHASE.  He ended up working in the mega-bank’s mortgage servicing area… the foreclosure department, to be precise.  He had absolutely no prior experience with mortgages or in real estate, but then… why would that be important?

“The car business is great in terms of bring home a good size paycheck, but to make the money you have to work all the time, 60-70 hours a week.  When our second child arrived, that schedule just wasn’t going to work.  I thought CHASE would be kind of a cushy office job that would offer some stability,” Jerad explained.

That didn’t exactly turn out to be the case.  Eighteen months after CHASE hired Jared, with numerous investors having filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of the housing meltdown, he was laid off.  The “investors” in this case are the entities that own the loans that Chase services.  When an investor files bankruptcy the loan files go to CHASE’S bankruptcy department, presumably to be liquidated by the trustee in order to satisfy the claims of creditors.

The interview process included a “panel” of CHASE executives asking Jared a variety of questions primarily in two areas.  They asked if he was the type of person that could handle working with people that were emotional and in foreclosure, and if his computer skills were up to snuff.  They asked him nothing about real estate or mortgages, or car sales for that matter.

The training program at CHASE turned out to be almost exclusively about the critical importance of documenting the files that he would be pushing through the foreclosure process and ultimately to the REO department, where they would be put back on the market and hopefully sold.  Documenting the files with everything that transpired was the single most important aspect of Jared’s job at CHASE, in fact, it was what his bonus was based on, along with the pace at which the foreclosures he processed were completed.

“A perfect foreclosure was supposed to take 120 days,” Jared explains, “and the closer you came to that benchmark, the better your numbers looked and higher your bonus would be.”

CHASE started Jared at an annual salary of $30,000, but he very quickly became a “Tier One” employee, so he earned a monthly bonus of $1,000 because he documented everything accurately and because he always processed foreclosures at as close to a “perfect” pace as possible.

“Bonuses were based on accurate and complete documentation, and on how quickly you were able to foreclosure on someone,” Jerad says.  “They rate you as Tier One, Two or Three… and if you’re Tier One, which is the top tier, then you’d get a thousand dollars a month bonus.  So, from $30,000 you went to $42,000.  Of course, if your documentation was off, or you took too long to foreclose, you wouldn’t get the bonus.”

Day-to-day, Jerad’s job was primarily to contact paralegals at the law firms used by CHASE to file foreclosures, publish sale dates, and myriad other tasks required to effectuate a foreclosure in a given state.

“It was our responsibility to stay on top of and when necessary push the lawyers to make sure things done in a timely fashion, so that foreclosures would move along in compliance with Fannie’s guidelines,” Jerad explained.  “And we documented what went on with each file so that if the investor came in to audit the files, everything would be accurate in terms of what had transpired and in what time frame.  It was all about being able to show that foreclosures were being processed as efficiently as possible.”

When a homeowner applies for a loan modification, Jerad would receive an email from the modification team telling him to put a file on hold awaiting decision on modification.  This wouldn’t count against his bonus, because Fannie Mae guidelines allow for modifications to be considered, but investors would see what was done as related to the modification, so everything had to be thoroughly documented.

“Seemed like more than 95% of the time, the instruction came back ‘proceed with foreclosure,’ according to Jerad.  “Files would be on hold pending modification, but still accruing fees and interest.  Any time a servicer does anything to a file, they’re charging people for it,” Jerad says.

I was fascinated to learn that investors do actually visit servicers and audit files to make sure things are being handled properly and homes are being foreclosed on efficiently, or modified, should that be in their best interest.  As Jerad explained, “Investors know that Polling & Servicing Agreements (“PSAs”) don’t protect them, they protect servicers, so they want to come in and audit files themselves.”

“Foreclosures are a no lose proposition for a servicer,” Jerad told me during the interview.  “The servicer gets paid more to service a delinquent loan, but they also get to tack on a whole bunch of extra fees and charges.  If the borrower reinstates the loan, which is rare, then the borrower pays those extra fees.  If the borrower loses the house, then the investor pays them.  Either way, the servicer gets their money.”

Jerad went on to say: “Our attitude at CHASE was to process everything as quickly as possible, so we can foreclose and take the house to sale.  That’s how we made our money.”

“Servicers want to show investors that they did their due diligence on a loan modification, but that in the end they just couldn’t find a way to modify.  They’re whole focus is to foreclose, not to modify.  They put the borrower through every hoop and obstacle they can, so that when something fails to get done on time, or whatever, they can deny it and proceed with the foreclosure.  Like, ‘Hey we tried, but the borrower didn’t get this one document in on time.’  That sure is what it seemed like to me, anyway.”

According to Jerad, JPMorgan CHASE in Rancho Bernardo, services foreclosures in all 50 states.  During the 18 months that he worked there, his foreclosure department of 15 people would receive 30-40 borrower files a day just from California, so each person would get two to three foreclosure a day to process just from California alone.  He also said that in Rancho Bernardo, there were no more than 5-7 people in the loan modification department, but in loss mitigation there were 30 people who processed forbearances, short sales, and other alternatives to foreclosure.  The REO department was made up of fewer than five people.

Jerad often took a smoke break with some of the guys handing loan modifications.  “They were always complaining that their supervisors weren’t approving modifications,” Jerad said.  “There was always something else they wanted that prevented the modification from being approved.  They got their bonus based on modifying loans, along with accurate documentation just like us, but it seemed like the supervisors got penalized for modifying loans, because they were all about finding a way to turn them down.”

“There’s no question about it,” Jerad said in closing, “CHASE is in the foreclosure business, not the modification business.”

Well, now… that certainly was satisfying for me.   Was it good for you too? I mean, since, as a taxpayer who bailed out CHASE and so many others, to know that they couldn’t care less about what it says in the HAMP guidelines, or what the President of the United States has said, or about our nation’s economy, or our communities… … or… well, about anything but “the perfect foreclosure,” I feel like I’ve been royally screwed, so it seemed like the appropriate question to ask.

Now I understand why servicers want foreclosures.  It’s the extra fees they can charge either the borrower or the investor related to foreclosure… it’s sort of license to steal, isn’t it?  I mean, no one questions those fees and charges, so I’m sure they’re not designed to be low margin fees and charges.  They’re certainly not subject to the forces of competition.  I wonder if they’re even regulated in any way… in fact, I’d bet they’re not.

And I also now understand why so many times it seems like they’re trying to come up with a reason to NOT modify, as opposed to modify and therefore stop a foreclosure. In fact, many of the modifications I’ve heard from homeowners about have requirements that sound like they’re straight off of “The Amazing Race” reality television show.

“You have exactly 11 hours to sign this form, have it notarized, and then deliver three copies of the document by hand to this address in one of three major U.S. cities.  The catch is you can’t drive or take a cab to get there… you must arrive by elephant.  When you arrive a small Asian man wearing one red shoe will give you your next clue.  You have exactly $265 to complete this leg of THE AMAZING CHASE!”

And, now we know why.  They’re not trying to figure out how to modify, they’re looking for a reason to foreclose and sell the house.

But, although I’m just learning how all this works, Treasury Secretary Geithner had to have known in advance what would go on inside a mortgage servicer.  And so must FDIC Chair Sheila Bair have known.  And so must a whole lot of others in Washington D.C. too, right?  After all, Jerad is a bright young man, to be sure, but if he came to understand how things worked inside a servicver in just 18 months, then I have to believe that many thousands of others know these things as well.

So, why do so many of our elected representatives continue to stand around looking surprised and even dumbfounded at HAMP not working as it was supposed to… as the president said it would?

Oh, wait a minute… that’s right… they don’t actually do that, do they?  In fact, our elected representatives don’t look surprised at all, come to think of it.  They’re not surprised because they knew about the problems.  It’s not often “in the news,” because it’s not “news” to them.

I think I’ve uncovered something, but really they already know, and they’re just having a little laugh at our collective expense… is that about right?  Is this funny to someone in Washington, or anyone anywhere for that matter?

Well, at least we found out before the elections in November.  There’s still time to send more than a few incumbents home for at least the next couple of years.

I’m not kidding about that.  Someone needs to be punished for this.  We need to send a message.

Mandelman out.

@ MANDELMAN MATTERS


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



Posted in chase, concealment, conspiracy, corruption, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, geithner, hamp, jpmorgan chase, Wall StreetComments (1)

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

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



Posted in coercion, concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, federal reserve board, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, geithner, hamp, insider, investigation, trade secretsComments (0)


GARY DUBIN LAW OFFICES FORECLOSURE DEFENSE HAWAII and CALIFORNIA
Advertise your business on StopForeclosureFraud.com

Archives