by ilene - October 25th, 2010 3:20 pm
Courtesy of Washington’s Blog
Today, in another must-read piece, economics professors William Black and L. Randall Wray confirm:
Several banks would go after the same homeowner, each claiming to hold the same mortgage (Bear sold the same mortgage over and over).
As USA Today pointed out in 2008, Bear was one of the big players in this area:
Bear Stearns was one of the biggest underwriters of complex investments linked to mortgages. Two of its hedge funds, heavily invested in subprime mortgages, folded in July.
Bear Stearns was linked to many other financial institutions, through the mortgage-backed securities it sponsored as well as through complex financial agreements called derivatives.
The Fed wasn’t so much concerned that 85-year-old Bear Stearns would go bankrupt, but rather that it would take other companies down with it, causing a financial meltdown.
Alot of toxic mortgages and mortgage related assets ended up on the taxpayer’s tab directly or indirectly.
For example, as Bloomberg noted in April 2009:
Maiden Lane I is a $25.7 billion portfolio of Bear Stearns securities related to commercial and residential mortgages. JPMorgan refused to buy them when it acquired Bear Stearns to avert the firm’s bankruptcy.
The Fed’s losses included writing down the value of commercial-mortgage holdings by 28 percent to $5.6 billion and residential loans by 38 percent to $937 million as of Dec. 31, the central bank said. Properties in California and Florida accounted for 45 percent of outstanding principal of the residential mortgages.
by ilene - October 22nd, 2010 1:45 am
Courtesy of Mish
The foreclosure crisis isn’t just about lost documents. It’s about trust—and a clash over who gets stuck with $1.1 trillion in losses say BusinessWeek writers Peter Coy, Paul M. Barrett and Chad Terhune in a comprehensive 7 page article called Mortgage Mess: Shredding the Dream.
The article kicks off with a high-profile case of Joseph Lents who has been in default for 8 years and is still living in his home because no one can come up with the note. Such cases are extremely rare, yet highly publicized as if they widely occur.
The article continues with a discussion about MERS including this interesting comment:
"The Florida Bankers Assn. told the state Supreme Court last year that in many cases the physical document was deliberately eliminated to avoid confusion immediately upon its conversion to an electronic file."
Then there is the issue of LPS, America’s biggest mortgage-and-foreclosure outsourcing firm.
"LPS supplies much of the digital plumbing for the convoluted home-finance system. At the start of 2010 it said its computer programs were handling 28 million loans with a total principal balance of more than $4.7 trillion—or more than half the nation’s outstanding mortgage balances."
Because of robo-signings and other questionable practices the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa and the state of Florida are investigating whether LPS and affiliated companies have fabricated documents and faked signatures.
LPS employees "seem to be creating and manufacturing ‘bogus assignments’ of mortgage in order that foreclosures may go through more quickly and efficiently," the Florida Attorney General’s Office says in an online description of its civil investigation.
To keep the paperwork moving, LPS uses a variety of incentives. Top-performing workers receive monthLY "Drive for Pride" awards that sometimes include $500 in company stock and a spot in an underground parking garage. LPS also devised a coding system to grade outside foreclosure attorneys based on their speed in completing tasks. Fast-acting attorneys receive green ratings; slower lawyers are labeled yellow or red and may receive fewer assignments. "Bill will move quickly and expect you to be there to pull your weight," says Jerry Mallot, executive vice-president of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. "I wouldn’t call the environment at his company kind and genteel."
In yet another case involving HSBC …
Judge Sigmund, who has since
by ilene - October 20th, 2010 4:50 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at The American Dream
Everyone knew that the foreclosure fraud crisis was going to spawn a festival of lawsuits, and now it looks like it is already beginning. The New York Federal Reserve Bank is part of a consortium of eight large institutional investment firms that has launched an effort to force Bank of America to repurchase $47 billion worth of mortgages packaged into bonds by its Countrywide Financial unit. It turns out that most mortgage bond contracts explicitly require the repurchase of loans when the quality of the loans falls short of promises made by the sellers. As most of us know by now, many of these mortgages that were packaged together into "AAA rated" securities were actually a bunch of junk. But this is just the beginning. There are going to be hordes of lawsuits stemming from this crisis and it is going to take years and years for this thing to work through the legal system.
All of the big players in the U.S. mortgage industry are going to be paralyzed for an extended period of time by this crisis, and that means that buying a home and achieving the American Dream is going to become a lot harder for millions of Americans. Not only that, if mortgage lending institutions end up being forced to take back gigantic mountains of bad mortgages it could end up sinking a whole lot of them. The implications for the U.S. financial system would be staggering.
And it turns out that the effort by the consortium of eight large institutional investment firms to get Bank of America to take back $47 billion in mortgages is not the only action already being taken. An even larger mortgage repurchase initiative involving investors holding a total of more than $500 billion in mortgage debt is being coordinated by Dallas lawyer Talcott Franklin.…
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 6:00 pm
Courtesy of John Mauldin at Thoughts From The Frontline
Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City!
With a capital "T" That rhymes with "P"
And that stands for Pool, That stands for pool.
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Right here! Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…
- From The Music Man
(Quick last-minute note: I think this (and next week’s) is/will be one of the more important letters I have written in the last ten years. Take the time to read, and if you agree send it on to friends and responsible parties. And note to new readers: this letter goes to 1.5 million of my closest friends. It is free. Now, let’s jump in!)
There’s trouble, my friends, and it is does indeed involve pool(s), but not in the pool hall. The real monster is hidden in those pools of subprime debt that have not gone away. When I first began writing and speaking about the coming subprime disaster, it was in late 2007 and early 2008. The subject was being dismissed in most polite circles. "The subprime problem," testified Ben Bernanke, "will be contained."
My early take? It would be a disaster for investors. I admit I did not see in January that it would bring down Lehman and trigger the worst banking crisis in 80 years, less than 18 months later. But it was clear that it would not be "contained." We had no idea.
I also said that it was going to create a monster legal battle down the road that would take years to develop. Well, in the fullness of time, those years have come nigh upon us. Today we briefly look at the housing market, then the mortgage foreclosure debacle, and then we go into the real problem lurking in the background. It is The Subprime Debacle, Act 2. It is NOT the mortgage foreclosure issue, as serious as that is. I seriously doubt it will be contained, as well. Could the confluence of a bank credit crisis in the US and a sovereign debt banking crisis in Europe lead to another full-blown world banking crisis? The potential is there. This situation wants some serious attention.
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 2:22 am
With risky behavior by big finance again threatening economic stability, how can we get things right this time?
Courtesy of Ellen Brown
Originally published in YES! Magazine
Looming losses from the mortgage scandal dubbed “foreclosuregate” may qualify as the sort of systemic risk that, under the new financial reform bill, warrants the breakup of the too-big-to-fail banks. The Kanjorski amendment allows federal regulators to pre-emptively break up large financial institutions that—for any reason—pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Although downplayed by most media accounts and popular financial analysts, crippling bank losses from foreclosure flaws appear to be imminent and unavoidable. The defects prompting the “RoboSigning Scandal” are not mere technicalities but are inherent to the securitization process. They cannot be cured. This deep-seated fraud is already explicitly outlined in publicly available lawsuits.
There is, however, no need to panic, no need for TARP II, and no need for legislation to further conceal the fraud and push the inevitable failure of the too-big-to-fail banks into the future.
Federal regulators now have the tools to take control and set things right. The Wall Street giants escaped the Volcker Rule, which would have limited their size, and the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have broken up the largest six banks outright; but the financial reform bill has us covered. The Kanjorski amendment—which slipped past lobbyists largely unnoticed—allows federal regulators to preemptively break up large financial institutions that pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Rep. Grayson’s Call for a Moratorium
The new Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) probably didn’t expect to have its authority called on quite so soon, but Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has just put the amendment to the test. On October 7, in a letter addressed to Timothy Geithner, Shiela Bair, Ben Bernanke, Mary Schapiro, John Walsh (Acting Comptroller of the Currency), Gary Gensler, Ed DeMarco, and Debbie Matz (National Credit Union Administration), he asked for an emergency task force on foreclosure fraud. He said:
The liability here for the major banks is potentially enormous, and can lead
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 12:54 am
Here’s another great article on the frauds at the heart of the mortgage and banking sectors. – Ilene
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
The system for financing mortgages and regulating that financing has failed, completely and utterly. The mortgage and real estate markets are now in collapse.
Yesterday I wrote about how positive feedback loops lead to collapse. Welcome to the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. As I have documented here numerous times, the entire U.S. mortgage market has already been socialized: 99% of all mortgages are backed by the three FFFs--Fannie, Freddie and FHA--and the Federal Reserve has purchased a staggering $1.2 trillion in mortgage-backed assets in the past year or so to maintain the illusion that there is a market for mortgage-backed securities.
There is, but only because the mortgages are backed by the Federal Government and propped up by the Federal Reserve.
The mortgage market is completely dependent on government guarantees and quasi-Government purchases of securitized mortgages. If the mortgage market were truly socialized, then the Central State would own the banks which originate, service and own the mortgages.
But then the private owners and managers of the "too big to fail" banks would not be reaping hundreds of billions in profits and bonuses. And since the banking industry has effectively captured the processes of governance (that is, Congress and the various regulatory agencies), then what we have is a system of private ownership of the revenue and profits generated by the mortgage industry and public absorption of the risks and losses.
Could anything be sweeter for the big banks? No.
The incestuous nature of the system is breathtaking. The Fed creates the credit which enables the mortgages, the Treasury guarantees the mortgages via Fannie, Freddie and FHA, the Fed buys the mortgages ($1.3 trillion in mortgages are on their balance sheet) and the private banks collect the fees and profits.
One of the core tenets of the Survival+ critique is the State/Financial Plutocracy partnership. There are many examples of this partnership (crony capitalism in which the State is the "enforcer" which collects the national income and distributes it to its private-sector cronies), but perhaps none so blatant and pure as the mortgage/banking sector.
by ilene - August 19th, 2010 5:43 pm
COULD 62 MILLION HOMES BE FORECLOSURE-PROOF?
Courtesy of ELLEN BROWN, at Web of Debt
Over 62 million mortgages are now held in the name of MERS, an electronic recording system devised by and for the convenience of the mortgage industry. A California bankruptcy court, following landmark cases in other jurisdictions, recently held that this electronic shortcut makes it impossible for banks to establish their ownership of property titles—and therefore to foreclose on mortgaged properties. The logical result could be 62 million homes that are foreclosure-proof.
Mortgages bundled into securities were a favorite investment of speculators at the height of the financial bubble leading up to the crash of 2008. The securities changed hands frequently, and the companies profiting from mortgage payments were often not the same parties that negotiated the loans. At the heart of this disconnect was the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a company that serves as the mortgagee of record for lenders, allowing properties to change hands without the necessity of recording each transfer.
MERS was convenient for the mortgage industry, but courts are now questioning the impact of all of this financial juggling when it comes to mortgage ownership. To foreclose on real property, the plaintiff must be able to establish the chain of title entitling it to relief. But MERS has acknowledged, and recent cases have held, that MERS is a mere “nominee”—an entity appointed by the true owner simply for the purpose of holding property in order to facilitate transactions. Recent court opinions stress that this defect is not just a procedural but is a substantive failure, one that is fatal to the plaintiff’s legal ability to foreclose.
That means hordes of victims of predatory lending could end up owning their homes free and clear—while the financial industry could end up skewered on its own sword.
The latest of these court decisions came down in California on May 20, 2010, in a bankruptcy case called In re Walker, Case no. 10-21656-E–11. The court held that MERS could not foreclose because it was a mere nominee; and that as a result, plaintiff Citibank could not collect on its claim. The judge opined:
Since no evidence of MERS’ ownership of the underlying note has been offered, and other courts have concluded that MERS does not own the underlying notes, this court is convinced that MERS had no
by ilene - July 12th, 2010 4:26 am
Courtesy of Karl Denninger, The Market Ticker
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California has issued a ruling dated May 20, 2010 in the matter of In Re: Walker, Case No. 10-21656-E-11 which found that MERS could not, as a matter of law, have transferred the note to Citibank from the original lender, Bayrock Mortgage Corp. The Court’s opinion is headlined stating that MERS and Citibank are not the real parties in interest.
The court found that MERS acted “only as a nominee” for Bayrock under the Deed of Trust and there was no evidence that the note was transferred. The opinion also provides that “several courts have acknowledged that MERS is not the owner of the underlying note and therefore could not transfer the note, the beneficial interest in the deed of trust, or foreclose on the property secured by the deed”, citing the well-known cases of In Re Vargas (California Bankruptcy Court), Landmark v. Kesler (Kansas decision as to lack of authority of MERS), LaSalle Bank v. Lamy (New York), and In Re Foreclosure Cases (the “Boyko” decision from Ohio Federal Court).
I have noted this repeatedly – that MERS own web site claims that it is exists for the purpose of circumventing assignments and documenting ownership!
MERS is an innovative process that simplifies the way mortgage ownership and servicing rights are originated, sold and tracked. Created by the real estate finance industry, MERS eliminates the need to prepare and record assignments when trading residential and commercial mortgage loans.
Sorry, but "creating a real estate finance industry device" does not obviate state law, no matter how much you might wish it did.
From the opinion cited:
The opinion states: “Since no evidence of MERS’ ownership of the underlying note has been offered, and other courts have concluded that MERS does not own the underlying notes, this court is convinced that MERS had no interest it could transfer to Citibank. Since MERS did not own the underlying note, it could not transfer the beneficial interest of the Deed of Trust to another. Any attempt to transfer the beneficial interest of a trust deed without ownership of the underlying note is void under California law.”
by ilene - October 23rd, 2009 12:20 pm
Courtesy of Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns
After I published the recent story on the case against servicing agent MERS in the Kansas Supreme court, I noticed a lot of chatter about some mortgage servicing line items in Wells Fargo’s earnings report. So I wanted to quote a few blurbs from the Kansas Appeals Court and Supreme Court decisions as background for another post on future mortgage service revenue streams in banking.
The Appeals Court case had a narrow focus as to whether MERS was a ‘necessary party’ in this particular foreclosure case. The finding was that MERS was not. The Kansas Supreme court agreed that MERS was not “contingently necessary.” They went further in concluding that the fact that MERS neither possessed the promissory note or had authority to assign it may means it cannot file suit.
However, because this is not a comprehensive judgment as to MERS’ role as nominee, clarification is needed. Given the number of foreclosures in the US, I expect this case is going to the Supreme Court.
Here are the facts.
Landmark National Bank v. Boyd A. Kessler summary
My summary of the case is as follows:
A homeowner based in Kansas came into economic difficulty, causing him to fall behind on his mortgage and file for bankruptcy on 13 April 2006. While he could have exempted his house in discharging his personal liabilities in bankruptcy, the homeowner opted instead to surrender the house.
Three months after he filed, on 27 Jul 2006, the bank with his primary mortgage decided to foreclose. It did not inform MERS (the central repository which tracks changes in mortgage ownership and servicing rights). Nor did it inform the bank holding the secondary mortgage.
On 6 September 2006, the district court then enters a default judgment and orders a sale on 29 September 2006. Notice of the sale went out into newspapers and a couple picked up this foreclosed property on the cheap on 14 November 2006. So far, so good.
Except that very day, a full seven after the bankruptcy filing, the secondary bank filed a petition to set aside the district court opinion, arguing that MERS was a “contingently necessary party.” It wants the money it is owed. And on 16…
by ilene - September 24th, 2009 2:29 pm
Fascinating article by Ellen Brown on the Kansas Supreme Court recent ruling that MERS (an electronic registry, holder of 60 million mortgages) has no standing to bring a foreclosure action against defaulting homeowners:
Courtesy of Ellen Brown at Web of Debt
A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.
Eliminating the “Straw Man” Shielding Lenders and Investors from Liability
The development of “electronic” mortgages managed by MERS went hand in hand with the “securitization” of mortgage loans – chopping them into pieces and selling them off to investors. In the heyday of mortgage securitizations, before investors got wise to their risks, lenders would slice up loans, bundle them into “financial products” called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), ostensibly insure them against default by wrapping them in derivatives called “credit default swaps,” and sell them to pension funds, municipal funds, foreign investment funds, and so forth. There were many secured parties, and the pieces kept changing hands; but MERS supposedly kept track of all these changes electronically. MERS would register and record mortgage loans in its name, and it would bring foreclosure actions in its name. MERS not only facilitated the rapid turnover of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but it has served as a sort of “corporate shield” that protects investors from claims by borrowers concerning predatory lending practices. California attorney Timothy …