The SEIU has a campaign: Where’s the Note? Demand to see your mortgage note. It’s worth checking out. But first, what is this note? And why would its existence be important to struggling homeowners, homeowners in foreclosure, and investors in mortgage backed securities?
There’s going to be a campaign to convince you that having the note correctly filed and produced isn’t that important (see, to start, this WSJ editorial from the weekend). It will argue that this is some sort of useless cover sheet for a TPS form that someone forgot to fill out. That is profoundly incorrect.
Independent of the fraud that was committed on our courts, the current crisis is important because the note is a crucial document for every party to a mortgage. But first, let’s define what a mortgage is. A mortgage consists of two documents, a note and a lien:
The note is the IOU; it’s the borrower’s promise to pay. The mortgage, or the lien, is just the enforcement right to take the property if the note goes unpaid. The note is crucial.
Why does this matter? Three reasons, reasons that even the Wall Street Journal op-ed page needs to take into account. The first is that the note is the evidence of the debt. If it isn’t properly in the trust, then there isn’t clear evidence of the debt existing.
And it can’t be a matter of “let’s go find it now!” REMIC law, which governs the securitization, is really specific here. The securitization can’t get new assets after 90 days without a tax penalty, and it can’t get defaulted assets at all without a major tax penalty. Most of these notes are way past 90 days and will be in a defaulted state.
This is because these parts of the mortgage-backed security were supposed to be passive entities. They are supposed to take in money through mortgage payments on one end and pay it out to bondholders on the other end — hence their exemption from lots…
All you need to know to follow the trail of wrongdoing.
The current wave of foreclosure fraud and the consequences for the economy are difficult to follow. As such, I’m going to write a few posts to simplify what is going on so you can follow stories as they unfold. This is very 101 level, and will include a reading list of blog posts and articles at each stage to help provide depth. (Special thanks to Yves Smith for walking me through much of this.) Let’s make three charts of the chains involved in the process. The first is what is currently going on with foreclosure fraud (click through for a larger image):
As you can see, in judicial review states like Florida the courts require that servicers, or those who administer the bonds that are full of mortgages (securitization, residential mortgage backed securities, RMBS, are all phrases they use), say that they have everything necessary in order to have standing to bring a foreclosure. They need to have the note for a mortgage, which is supposed to be in the trust — part of the mortgage backed securities — that they administer.
What is breaking down here? In Florida, a judicial review state, it was found that one person was notarizing documents far faster than anyone reasonably could have. Someone found forged documents necessary for the foreclosure process, like the note. A separate court system was set up to resolve these foreclosures faster, at the expense of allowing serious challenges to the documents. Here’s Smith on how kangaroo these courts look up close. Here’s WaPo on one individual and the nightmare of trying to challenge an invalid foreclosure. Keep him in mind when you hear about deadbeats and whatnot: the current system is designed to make it difficult for anyone to challenge their case.
Meet the robo-signer who kicked it off here at this WaPo story. I almost feel bad for this patsy; the real battle here is between junior and senior tranche holders, and this doofus could end up in jail in order to keep John Paulson rich. After reading about this guy, I’m asking our elites to take better care of their goons. (Can we get a Financial Patsy Fordism social contract movement going? If…
So how did America solve the problem of the Too Big To Fail Banks? Simple, we doubled the size of them. Now they’re too gigantic to fail.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Here’s Stephen Grocer in the WSJ with this incredible story (emphasis Daddy’s):
Citi, BofA, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo now control $7.7 trillion in assets and $3.2 trillion in deposits as of March 30. To put that in perspective: The $7.7 trillion in assets is almost double the combined assets of the next 46 biggest banksand 37% more in deposits.
More importantly, those four banks control more assets today than they did in December 2007, when Deal Journal first wrote about “too big to fail.” Back then J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, BofA and Wells held $4.95 trillion in assets.
In the brokerage business, we have a term called Concentrated Position, meaning an account with a greater-than-normal percentage of assets in one or two large holdings. Accounts with concentrated positions are seen to carry more risk (obviously) and are ineligible for margin privileges in some cases. Essentially, the entire banking system has become one big concentrated position account, in worse shape than it was in before the crash (thanks to mergers and attrition, no doubt, but still).
This is an interesting solution to the systemic risk problem we were all carrying on about over the last few years. Bravo.
The Obama plan is exactly backwards in its approach to systemic risk. It will increase systemic risk.
As pointed out by one of the leaders of econophysics, Eugene Stanley (here), one of the prime results in the exploding field of network theory is that densely connected networks are chaotic and unstable compared to sparsely connected networks.
This only makes sense. If every part of a network affects every other part of a network it becomes very easy for large perturbations to propagate through the network, and rebound, and so on.
The Obama-Summers-Geithner solution to our problem of systemic risk is evidence of an intellectual obtuseness that is breathtaking.
The Fed created or permitted by neglect of its duties the systemic risk that caused this crash, and the Great Depression before it. Mish got this right.
The obvious solution given that systemic risk is a characteristic of the structure of the financial system is to change the structure of the system to reduce systemic risk. Break up investment banks and commercial banks. Eliminate financial institutions that are big enough to create systemic risk all by themselves (no more “too big to fail”). Make it impossible for the system to become densely connected by limiting leverage. The plan does increase capital requirements but not enough. And it leaves the trading of CDSs, the densely-linked network of derivatives that largely caused the supposed near melt-down of the system last fall, lightly regulated and less than transparent.
You can’t leave the TBTF institutions in place, or they will capture the regulators again. Or perhaps it’s better to say they’re not letting them go at this time.
Glass-Steagall and the other laws that the neocons undid over the past thirty years worked. They kept the system stable for sixty years.
We have argued the inevitability of Fed-administered hyperinflation, prompted by a global slowdown and its negative impact on the ability to service and repay systemic debt. One of the most politically expedient avenues policy makers could take would be to inflate the debt away in real terms through coordinated currency devaluations against gold, the only monetize-able asset on most central bank balance sheets. To do so they...
Flipping out over how awesome this new post at Michael Batnick’s blog is, which presents the career arc of history’s most important investors of all time. He takes their dates of birth, advances them 22 years for a typical career starting point, and then overlays them with the future cumulative performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to give you a sense of how much wind they had at their backs.
Note: In response to an email, I've updated the data in this article through the March month-end numbers and at the launch of the Q1 2016 earnings season.
When I initiated the dshort web page in late 2005, one of my routine topics was equity valuations, initially inspired by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller's book, Irrational Exuberance, the second edition of which was published earlier that year. I gradually expanded my focus from his cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (CAPE) to include Ed Easterling's Crestmont P/E, Nobel laureate James Tobin's Q Ratio and m...
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Do you remember when you were growing up and all your friends were allowed Atari game consoles but you weren’t?
Well, I do and the things seemed as foreign to me as Venus. Mostly because the little time I managed to spend on the gaming consoles when my friends weren’t hogging them I found it all a bit silly. I never “got” computer games, and to this day still have poor comprehension of things like Angry Birds.
I suspect that many people around the world view Bitcoin in the same way as I view Angry Birds: with mild amusement and a general lack of understanding as to what the hell all the fuss is about.
I was thinking of this since a buddy of mine recently started ...
After a three-year bull run that more than quadrupled its value by its peak last July, IBD’s Medical-Biomed/Biotech Industry Group plunged 50% by early February, hurt by backlashes against high drug prices and mergers that seek to lower corporate taxes.
Although we try to stay focused on finding and managing promising trade ideas, the comments in the comment section sometimes take a political turn (for access, try PSW — click here!). So today, Jean Luc writes,
The GOP debate last night was just unreal – are these people running to be president of the US or to lead a college fraternity! Comparing tool size? The only guy that looks semi-sane is Kasich. The other guys are just like 3 jackals right now.
And something else – if Trump is the candidate, that little Romney speech yesterday is probably already being made into a commercial. And all these little snippets from the debate will also make some nice ads! If you are a conservative, you have to be scared now.
Phil writes back,
I was expecting them to start throwing poop at each other &n...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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