Tag: Bank Fraud

Is This A Sell Out?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I realize that there has been a lot of speculation about what went down in the 24 hrs prior to the SOTU after Miller announced that there was no bank/state settlement deal. There is a lot of speculation about Schneiderman and not without good reason. When I was writing my article for Stars Hollow I was careful not to join in the “sell out” theme that was running hot with some very respected bloggers. I think Obama is desperate. He knows that he is losing the Independents and moderate Republicans and needed to do something fast, especially in the light of the unpopularity of the 50 state agreement and the massive push to stop it. On the other side, and I somewhat agree with RJ Eskow on this, Schneiderman has the upper hand. He is wildly popular and scares the crap out of Cuomo & company. Schneiderman is not dropping the investigation here in NY, he’s expanding it from what I hear.

That said, I think that if this unit doesn’t move quickly in the evidence they already have, evidence BTW Schneiderman has not had access to, he will drop this like a hot potato and walk. Obama is walking a thin line and realizes that Wall St money alone will not get him reelected. I think Schneiderman is playing on that and hopes to at least hold some of them more responsible and get some better compensation for the homeowners that got screwed along with some regulation of the securitization that caused this all.

I have my doubts. There are better ways to do this, namely appointing a special prosecutor with a budget, investigators and subpoena power. I’m not willing to throw Schneiderman under the bus just yet.

I also think Obama wants him to succeed Holder who said he would leave this year even if Obama is reelected. It’s either him or CA’s AG Harris.

This was a complete surprise, so I’m being very cautious here, knowing what I do about Schneiderman and who is politically afraid of him. Like after Obama was elected, I’m watching and listening very carefully. Hoping that it is not as bad as it looks.

Eskow’s opinion appeared in Huffington Post and he disclosed that he is a fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, a left wing strategy center. (This site, however, is not affiliated with any outside organization and opinions expressed here are solely are own.) He gives a good analysis of the reasons for the skepticism of David Dayen, Yves Smith and Duncan Black (Atrios) who said, “It’s hard to see the Schneiderman thing as anything but bad news.”

Eskow dissects the reasons for the skepticism

The administration’s lack of prosecutions has been inexcusable. His administration has refused to prosecute even the most compelling prima facie cases of and has appointed one revolving-door banker after another to key economic positions. Its financial settlements with Wall Street have been disgraceful. For far too long the president pushed the nonsensical argument that “Wall Street and Main Street rise and fall together.”

And with an election coming up, bankers can write big checks that most other people can’t.

He also points out that if the Department of Justice and the SEC had been doing their jobs in the first place neither the Financial Fraud Task Force or this unit would be necessary. It’s hard not to agree with him that committees are “designed for paralysis and gridlock, not efficiency” and that president who promoted “”streamlining government” and “eliminating bureaucracy” would create this committee. Looking back on what happened with health care and financial reform everyone on the left has good cause to be wary of anything that President Obama does at this point and some groups, perhaps shouldn’t have been so effusive in their praise of this deal. Eskow, as do I, thinks that the White House, left scrambling after Iowa AG Tom Miller announced that there was no settlement with the banks and presented with citizen petitions that had hundred of thousands of names, reversed course in desperation. Then with the announcement that Schneiderman would “chair” the committee, there was a rush of exuberant relief that Obama was finally showing some signs of supporting the 99%.

As to the possibility that Schneiderman “caved”to pressure from the White House, Eskow backs up what I have said, Schneiderman has too much leverage:

Whatever Eric Schneiderman’s goals are, I doubt they include being stigmatized by progressives as a sell-out. His actions over the last few months have not been those of a guy who rolls over easily. It’s safe to assume that he wants to prosecute bank fraud, and that this appointment will give him access to the resources he’s needed to conduct a thorough investigation. [..]

Consider this: What would it do to the White House if Schneiderman labeled the entire effort a sham, resigned in protest, and continued his investigations alone? He must know he has leverage now, and presumably will use it if necessary.

Escow appeared with Cenk Uygur on “The Young Turks” to discuss the unit and Schneiderman with Cenk’s panel:

I certainly don’t agree with Michael Shure and what basically is “the lesser of two evils” meme. It can be just as bad with Obama. That said, could this turn out as the cynics are predicting? Sure and if it does we here at Stars Hollow, like Eskow, will say so.

Another good discussion of this new committee was with Delaware AG Beau Biden who appeared with Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC and his other guest real estate analyst, Jack McCabe:

I’m not ready to throw in the towel nor am I going to get on the cheer-leading band wagon. I will wait to see what transpires and keep my fingers crossed for the best outcome for the most people, the 99%.

Foreclosure Fraud: While You Were Sleeping

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Over the weekend while everyone was distracted by the South Carolina primary circus, the Super Bowl Championship playoffs and the Joe Paterno death watch, the Obama Justice Department is working to stab homeowners in the back and let the big banks off the hook for liability for the fraud they’ve committed and continue to commit.

Talks set out terms of US mortgage deal

By Shahien Nasiripour and Kara Scannell at Financial Times

Banks and government negotiators have cleared a big hurdle in efforts to resolve allegations of widespread mortgage-related misdeeds, agreeing on terms for a settlement that are being circulated to the 50 US states for approval, state officials and a bank representative say.

The proposed pact would potentially reduce mortgage balances and monthly payments by more than $25bn for distressed US homeowners, these five people said.

The tentative agreement still must be approved by all 50 state attorneys-general, and negotiators have previously missed proposed deadlines. Participants described the proposal terms as set, meaning the states will be asked either to agree to them or decline to participate.

The amount of potential aid is contingent on state participation and would decrease significantly if big states do not sign the agreement. New York and California are among several states that have voiced concerns about the terms of the proposed deal with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial. New York and California are particularly concerned with the part of the deal that would absolve the banks of civil liability for allegedly illegal mortgage-related conduct.

California borrowers would be eligible to receive more than $10bn in aid if the state were to agree to the terms, according to several people involved in the talks.

It’s pretty obvious that by offering California 40% of the settlement that the Obama administration is trying very hard to pull their AG, Kamala Harris, back into the agreement. So far the pressure from her constituents is winning out over bribes that in the end would short change California home owners. From Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel:

Remember the “Cornhusker Kickback”? That was the $45 million in expanded Medicaid funding Ben Nelson demanded from the Obama Administration before he’d support Health Insurance Reform. The special treatment for Nebraska gave the reform effort a tawdry feel.

And just as importantly, it did nothing to improve Nelson’s popularity in his own state. When he announced he would not run for reelection in December, reporters pointed to the Cornhusker Kickback as one issue that was making his reelection increasingly unlikely. [..]

Yet it seems like Obama’s trying something similar in his effort to get CA’s Kamala Harris to join in his foreclosure settlement, with $10 billion in aid slated for CA’s struggling homeowners.

It would seem that Obama is having a hard time getting the Democratic AG’s on board.

Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Terms Laid Out, But Holdout AGs Not Signed On

by David Dayen at FDL News Desk

When I started digging into whether this Monday meeting with HUD and DoJ officials to go over a proposal for a foreclosure fraud settlement was legitimate, I couldn’t find one state Attorney General who mattered actually committed to showing up. When I say AGs who “matter,” I mean the ones who have been critical of a settlement in the past. I mean the Justice Democrats. I mean Eric Schneiderman in New York, Beau Biden in Delaware, Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, Kamala Harris in California, not to mention the AGs from Hawaii, New Hampshire, Missouri, Mississippi, Maryland, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon and Montana who showed up (either themselves or representatives) at the meeting in DC last week to discuss alternatives to a settlement. I mean them. They aren’t going to Chicago, by all accounts. [,,]

But again, I’ve seen no evidence that anyone outside of the small circle of the Administration and the AGs on the executive committee negotiating the deal actually agree to it. Call it the 12-state deal, rather than the 50-state one. This is only closer to getting done in the sense that the folks who have wanted to cave all along are ready to do so.

So what can we do as individuals to get our state Attorney Generals to support homeowners and reject this sell out to the big banks? Yves Smith at naked capitalism lays out three reasons they should oppose this settlement and says to call them:

Here are some of the reasons to oppose a settlement:

1. There have been virtually no investigations, and the Administration has engaged in cover-ups rather than trying to get to the bottom of the mortgage mess

2. The big argument made in favor of the deal, that it will help borrowers, is patently false. Remember, Countrywide entered into a deal with attorney generals just like this, where they agreed to do mods in return for a settlement on abuses. Guess what? They didn’t do the mods. To add insult to injury, they actually abused homeowners who should have gotten mods. Nevada AG is suing Countrywide now over its failure to comply with the terms of its settlement. And even if some mods miraculously did get done, the settlement is designed to have banks hit a dollar amount. That means they will focus on the biggest loans, which means any relief will go to a comparatively small number of people in (originally) big ticket houses.

3. The Administration has only one chance to get this right. Now you might argue that Team Obama has no intention of getting the mortgage mess right, but the tectonic plates suddenly seem to be moving in elite circles. The Fed realizes that housing is a BIG problem and has even started making noise about it. Yet Obama is moving forward with a plan cooked up in late 2010 that is completely out of whack with the urgency and severity of the problem. Note that this settlement will NOT stop private actions, such as borrowers fighting foreclosures. And we will continue to banks refuse to take losses and drag out foreclosures to maximize fees. That will lead to continued pressure on housing prices in many markets as buyers stay on the sidelines, fearful of buying before a large shadow inventory clears. [..]

PLEASE call them TODAY. Here is a list of phone numbers. If you can’t get through, send an e-mail.

Please also sign this petition from Campaign for America’s Future (it has some talking points if you need them for the AG calls). Note you can opt out of being put on their mailing list (I know that has been a sore point with some past petitions). I know it is futile to ping Obama, but they will collect the number of people who sign, and that will in turn bolster the dissident AGs.

Please call today. Unlike Congresscritters, who get a lot of constituent mail and phone calls, AGs get much less in the way of messages from state citizens, so your calls will make a difference.

Thanks for your help.

Investigating Fannie & Freddie But Not The Banks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Another slap on the wrist by the government for the banks that caused the housing bubble and the crash that sank the economy world wide with unregulated derivatives and credit default swaps:

DoJ Settles – Again – With Countrywide on Fair Lending Claim

by David Dayen

The Department of Justice has announced a $335 million settlement with Countrywide, the former subprime mortgage giant now subsumed into Bank of America, on claims of housing discrimination.

   The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

   A department investigation concluded that Countrywide had charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. It also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans, the department said.

   The pattern and practice covered the years 2004 to 2008, before Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America.

   “The department’s actions against Countrywide makes clear that we will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable, including one of the nation’s largest, for discrimination,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “These institutions should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin.”

I’m waiting for someone to hold financial institutions accountable for discrimination against every one of its customers, by defrauding them and destroying the residential home mortgage market. That’s obviously not going to happen here.[..]

Here’s the settlement agreement, and once again you see that Countrywide doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing for their crimes.

But the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission will enthusiastically pursue the one agency that didn’t cause the crash but just inherited it, at tax payers expense:

FBI Now Investigating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

by David Dayen

The walls have closed in over the past couple weeks on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC charged former CEOs and executives at the companies with fraud. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued them for imformation (sic)in a wide-ranging fraud investigation. And now we learn that the FBI is investigating them[..]

If Fannie and Freddie are guilty of misleading investors, they deserve to pay the penalty. And yet, I do sense more enthusiasm to go after these government sponsored enterprises than to go after the private banking firms which were far more responsible for subprime. This feeds a false narrative that government somehow caused the financial crisis by forcing lending to poor people. Fannie and Freddie followed the market in subprime and did not originate it.

Slow, Steady Calls For Investigating Foreclosure Fraud

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Some encouraging news in the on going call for an investigation into foreclosure fraud, Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called for Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the fraud before letting the bank off with a pitiful settlement $20 billion and a “get out of jail” card for criminal charges, She also demanded a full investigation into robo-signing scandal and ‘pump and dump’ mortgage bubble scheme:

I am concerned that recently reported settlement proposals will effectively absolve these financial institutions of substantial civil and criminal liability in one of the largest alleged fraud schemes during the financial crisis. Specifically, I am concerned that the proposed settlement includes a release from liability that may be far too sweeping, does not adequately compensate victims, does not require enough of banks to reform the system that led to the crisis in the first place, and is being made before all the facts are known and without the backing of a full inquiry into the size and scope of the alleged fraud.



Without a thorough investigation, it is impossible to truly estimate just how pervasive the defects in the foreclosure and securitization process are. Continued reports of wrongful foreclosures, forged documents, and an inability of servicers and banks to prove chain of title and the legal right to foreclosure, raises the very alarming possibility that these defects were endemic to the mortgage servicing industry across the country. The sheer magnitude of the potential fallout from these defects demands that we undertake a full investigation to uncover the true scope of wrongdoing before providing blanket immunity to the perpetrators.

I am also concerned that reports of a settlement in the range of $20 billion, as recently reported, may not adequately compensate the victims of the foreclosure crisis. As a result of the pump-and-dump scheme perpetrated by the nation’s largest banks that inflated – and burst – the housing bubble, an estimated 14 million Americans are underwater, owing $700 billion more on their homes than those homes are worth. A $20 billion settlement is woefully inadequate to compensate the wrongfully evicted or homeowners struggling to stay in their homes. Much more should be required of banks to provide meaningful help underwater homeowners and compensate foreclosure fraud victims.

And some good news for homeowners facing foreclosure in Florida:

WEST PALM BEACH РHome­owners in foreclosure may have a better chance of getting a true trial, instead of a quickie judgment, following a 4th District Court of Appeal decision that requires banks to prove ownership of the note at the time they file for repossession.

The ruling Wednesday in Palm Beach County was heralded by foreclosure defense attorneys who said it may even force banks to dismiss some cases and start over with new paperwork.[..]

Wednesday’s ruling was on the case of Robert McLean vs. JPMorgan Chase, and involved a 2009 Broward County foreclosure.

According to the decision, which reversed a lower court’s verdict in favor of the bank, Chase originally filed the foreclosure claiming the note – basically the IOU from the borrower – was “lost, stolen or destroyed.”

The claim has been made thousands of times as lenders rushed without the proper documentation to take back homes tangled up in the real estate boom’s securitization frenzy.

Although most notes are found before a final foreclosure judgment is entered, the 4th DCA said the note also must be correctly dated and endorsed to show ownership before the foreclosure was initially filed – something that Chase didn’t have, according to the ruling. The court also questioned a mortgage assignment made to Chase that was dated three days after the foreclosure was initially filed.

If there is substantial doubt about the note, the bank should dismiss and refile the case or the home¬≠owner should be entitled to an evidentiary hearing instead of a more hasty “summary judgment,” the ruling said.

GMAC to Massachusetts: We Aren’t Going to Play in Your State

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow gazette

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a law suit against five major banks and MERSover deceptive mortgage practices. One of those entities, GMAC, the mortgage lender of Ally Financial Inc., decided to stop mortgage lending in Massachusetts. The nation’s fifth-largest mortgage originator said it “has taken this action because recent developments have led mortgage lending in Massachusetts to no longer be viable,”. Seriously, they are not going to play in the state because Martha wants them to play by the rules. How dare she!

Yves Smith at naked capitalism says that in essence GMAC Mugs Massachusetts for Insisting on the Rule of Law, Suspends Mortgage Lending in the State

This move by GMAC, now Ally, is remarkably brazen. GMAC has effectively said that Massachusetts must hew to its demands of how to deal with foreclosures. It announced it is withdrawing from mortgage lending in the state in an effort to bring it to heel. [..]

GMAC is trying to get other big banks to follow suit. I hope the state and other groups that do substantial financial business with banks (largish churches are also attractive clients) make it clear than any effort to punish the state for enforcing the law will be met by moving their accounts to smaller institutions that respect the law. [..]

Sorry, for the first decade plus of the private mortgage securitization business, banks and servicers did hew to the requirements of state law. It was only in the late 1990s through 2004 or so that they started to fail to comply with the requirements of their own contracts (the breakdown appears to have taken place over time, with the biggest decay taking place during the 2002-2003 refi boom). That’s what has put their foreclosures on shaky footing, which in turn has led to wideranging legal abuses to get around the mess they created.

The insolence of the securitization industry continues to be astonishing. They act as if they have an imperial right to dictate to governments, and refuse to admit any role in a disaster of their own creation. I hope those of you who do business with Ally close your accounts immediately and tell the bank that it is due to their Mafia style move in Massachusetts.

If you’re a GMAC customer in Massachusetts, it’s time to move your loan.  

MA Attorney General Sues 5 Major Banks & MERS

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Another state attorney general is suing five major banks and Mortgage Electronic Registration System Inc. and its parent company over deceptive foreclosure practices. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley  filed the suit on Wednesday seeking redress from Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Ally Financial.

Ms. Coakley joins a small group of state attorney generals from larger states that have been hit the hardest by the foreclosure/mortgage fraud scandal:

  • Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto sued Bank of America for fraudulent practices related to a prior settlement on Countrywide loans and recently filed a 606-count criminal indictment against two LPS employees for robo-signing;
  • Delaware AG Beau Biden sued MERS for deceptive practices;
  • New York’s Eric Schneiderman has a ever expanding investigation into foreclosure and securitization fraud and has issued a number of subpoenas for documents;
  • California’s Kamala Harris just filed subpoenas against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over mortgage servicing and securitization.
  • Ms. Coakley, whose reputation was tarnished after her loss to a Republican for the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, has been strong on tightening state regulations and force banks to assist financially stressed homeowners save their homes:

    Coakley spoke in support of legislation she filed in January with state Senator Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, and Representative Steven M. Walsh, a Lynn Democrat. The proposed law, which they call An Act to Prevent Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, focuses on mortgage loans that are considered to be risky, including those with interest-only payment and adjustable rates.

    The bill would require lenders to analyze a borrower’s financial information to determine whether modifying the loan to a more affordable payment would be more beneficial financially to the lender than going through the lengthy and costly process of taking the property through foreclosure. Many lenders already undertake such a study before deciding whether to foreclose, but the bill would permit homeowners to file a lawsuit if the process does not occur, according to Coakley’s staff.

    The proposed law also would force lenders to prove they are the legal owner of mortgages before foreclosing, incorporating the findings of recent foreclosure-related decisions from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

    These five state attorney generals are doing the hard work that should be done by the US Attorney General Eric Holder. Instead Mr. Holder is still clinging to Iowa AG Tom Miller’s stalled negotiations with the banks to settle the fraud for a mere $25 billion and exoneration from criminal prosecution. Mr. Holder has made protecting banks and corporations his priority and just recently announced a new initiative to prosecute intellectual property rights thefts by the public. This is not what Americans elected this administration to do.

    Where Are The Prosecutions?

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    In case you missed it (I strongly suspect you did), Yves Smith of naked capitalism appeared as a guest on the PBS News Hour to discuss why there have been so few prosecutions of ceo’s or bankers in the recent banking scandal.

    The other guests are:

    Lynn Turner is a former chief accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He’s now a managing director at the consulting firm Litinomics.

    Anton Valukas is a former U.S. attorney. He’s now in private practice and issued a bankruptcy report examining the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

    Mark Calabria is a former Republican staff member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He’s now at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.

    In Aftermath of Financial Crisis, Who’s Being Held Responsible?

    The full transcript is here.

    Foreclosure Fraud: Business As Usual

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    On of the biggest frauds that has been perpetrated in the housing collapse that has precipitated the foreclosure crisis has been robosigning especially done by MERS, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a privately held company that operates an electronic registry designed to track servicing rights and ownership of mortgage loans in the United States. The current negotiations by the state attorney generals in conjunction with the Obama Justice Department will in all likelihood exonerate the banks of any criminal liability and allow them to continue using the fraudulent MERS to foreclose on homes that the banks may not legally own. Gretchen Morgensen wrote in the New York Times that “The deal being discussed now may also release the big banks that are members of MERS, the electronic mortgage registry, from the threat of some future legal liability for actions involving that organization.”  Matt Stoller and Mike Lux point to an even bigger issue, robosigning has not stopped:

    Why a Foreclosure Fraud Settlement is a RIDICULOUS Idea

    By Matt Stoller

    What makes these discussions so utterly absurd, so ridiculous, and farcical, is that robo-signing, an abuse the banks have admitted to and clam they’ve ceased, is still going on. The AP reported this in July; mortgage servicers in Nevada have stopped foreclosing because of a law explicitly criminalizing robo-signing. Yes, the banks are asking for a release of claims on acts, or perhaps crimes, that are ongoing. And these abuses are extensive: lying to investors about the quality of the mortgages; violating their own contracts by failing to convey mortgages properly to securitization trusts; charging fees that are impermissible under Federal law and the contracts; making a mess of property records and engaging in deceptive consumer practices through the use of MERS; and engaging in document forgeries and fabrications in foreclosures. All these people trying to give the banks “a settlement” are in fact immunizing banks against acts they are committing and will commit going forward. Only in the future, when a voter complains to his or her state AG, that official will have to explain to that voter that his/her rights have been given away.

    We’re talking about an ongoing case of criminal theft of private property by mortgage servicers charging illegal fees and then using fraudulent documents to foreclose. Now, a settlement implies that this practice is over, and that the banks are remediating past wrongs. It isn’t over, but the AGs and Federal regulators are treating it as if it is. Think about this incentive – why should a bank change its mortgage servicing once it has immunity for robo-signing, origination, pyramiding of fees, etc? The last consent decrees weren’t enforced, why would this one be enforced?

    Obama on Banking: The Worst Deal They Could Cut

    by Mike Lux

       A dozen banks would contribute a grand total of $3.5 to 5 billion toward the settlement, pocket change for massive companies that apparently approved their foreclosure mill law firms likely committing over 1,000,000 counts of perjury in the robo-signing process. The rest of the money, about $20 billion, would come in the form of “credits” banks essentially give themselves if they agree to reduce a certain amount of the principal owed on mortgages. We don’t know the details yet, but given that all banks in the home lending industry write down some mortgages, unless the details are tough on the banks (a phrase not generally heard of among regulators in this era), this will be giving banks credit for mortgages they would be writing down anyway. And if they don’t end up writing down as much as they project, they probably won’t end up being penalized for it given the history of programs like HAMP […]

       If the administration rams through this ultimate in Wall Street sweetheart deals – a laughably pocket change fine combined with “credit” for what they would have done anyway, at the expense for a get out of jail free card for 1 million counts of perjury and a wide range of other potential fraud – they will have zero credibility to run as the tough on Wall Street candidate. ZERO.

       This makes no sense. For example, for the Obama administration to be leaning so hard on California Attorney General Kamala Harris to sign off on this is truly politically suicidal, both for them and for her after she so strongly announced she was pulling out a couple of weeks ago. Yet they continue to push her. Why are they pushing so hard for this? It all boils down to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It is apparent that Geithner believes the only thing that matters in terms of fixing the economy is to keep the big banks in good financial shape, which is ironic given that in public he claims that everything is fine with the banking sector now.

    Yves Smith at naked capitalism suggests we make some phone calls:

    It’s important to keep the pressure up, particularly on state AGs who might walk from a too bank friendly deal. States whose AGs might decamp include Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Colorado. It’s also key to let the AGs in states who have left the talks and are under pressure to return that voters are watching and will be unhappy if they reverse themselves. Those states are New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Nevada, Minnesota, and of course, California. You can find their phone numbers here.

    The Obama administration, congress and the state attorney generals who refuse to hold the banks to the letter of the law hold this country’s economic future. If this passes it will destroy the housing market and this economy for decades.

    Another Fraud Settlement Proposal And The Banks Skate

    Cross posted fromThe Stars Hollow Gazette

    The latest proposal to come from of the State Attorney Generals investigating mortgage and foreclosure fraud is just a another band-aid on a hemorrhage that lets the banks off and does nothing to help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage or behind in their payments. It appears that this is just a ploy to bring the California Attorney General “back into the fold.” Diana Olick, CNBC Real Estate Reporter, has tis analysis:

    As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the AG’s are proposing a refinance plan for underwater borrowers, trying to get banks to bring down interest rates on mortgages for those who owe far more than their homes are presently worth; that’s around 10.9 million borrowers, according to CoreLogic, but sources say it wouldn’t be all of them. It would, “target a finite number of borrowers who are current on their mortgages,” according to my source.

    My source then went on to explain that this is a plan previously pushed by the California state attorney general, who has dropped out of the negotiations over issues surrounding banks’ release from future liability (the California AG did not comment in the WSJ article but claimed they had not seen said proposal). New York and Massachusetts have done the same. Apparently this could, “bring California back to the table,” says my source, because the California AG finds it, “intriguing.”

    Ms. Olick also points out that this is the same plan that the Obama administration has proposed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The plan will only affect about 20% of homeowners with bank mortgages. While it would give some, who can afford the loans, a little extra cash, it doesn’t “change the fact that these folks still have no hope of seeing their home equity again any time soon, and it doesn’t address the greater ills of today’s housing market that are keeping true recovery at bay.”

    David Dayen at FDL expounds further:

    But wait! This is supposed to be a penalty on the banks. Is it a penalty on the banks when an eligible borrower with a bank-owned loan refinances? No, that’s just an option that the borrower has. Extending that option is supposed to be a penalty for committing systemic fraud on state courts? I don’t necessarily mind the Fannie/Freddie plan as a source of potential stimulus. I don’t consider it a penalty. And when you’re talking about 20% of the market, tops (and not all of those loans are underwater, so this is smaller), the benefits are miniscule (sic).

    They’re just grabbing at straws to try and get a flawed settlement across the line that the remaining AGs can hold a press conference about. And economic stimulus, not accountability, is the main goal. Keep in mind that anything that leads to a round of sped-up foreclosures will not aid the housing market. It will bring prices down, just as a function of supply and demand. This will bring borrowers more underwater. So the idea that there’s a tension between the rule of law and helping people presumes that the only thing standing between America and a recovery is Kamala Harris and Eric Schneiderman. That’s just not true. There are tools at the disposal of the relevant regulators right now to foster recoery (sic), they’re just not choosing to do it.

    Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden spoke with MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan about fight to investigate the banks.

    The biggest problem that is the gorilla in the room is chain of title. In a detailed article that is well worth the read, Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

    And as we anticipated, the inducement that had led the Miller camp to hope it might clinch a deal is a juicy release. From Reuters:

       Originally, the states were only considering immunity for shortcuts taken during mortgage servicing and foreclosures, including the so-called “robo-signing” of documents to evict people behind on their mortgages.

       In recent days, the state attorneys general agreed to release major banks from claims that they made legal errors when first originating the loans, such as approving loans for borrowers without verifying any income, according to two people familiar with the talks.

       In exchange, banks would agree to refinance mortgages for borrowers who are current on their payments but owe more than their homes are currently worth, the sources said.

    This is very troubling. Investors should be up in arms. Any release the banks get here is worth multiples of what the banks will pay for this (note that because investors are conservative creatures and have ongoing relationships with banks, having attorneys general pave the way is particularly important for them).

    The failure to verify income is the tip of the iceberg of origination abuses. The most serious is chain of title, where the banks promised to investors to take a series of steps to convey the mortgages properly to the securitization trusts within a stipulated time frame. For reasons we’ve explained in gory detail in earlier posts, retroactive fixes or waivers simply won’t work. That is why the banks have resorted to widespread forgeries and document fabrication.

     

    The MSM Notices Foreclosure Fraud

    Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    The CBS News program, “60 Minutes” aired a Mortgage paperwork mess: the next housing shock? segment on foreclosure fraud which, as most economists agree, is the biggest threat to the US economy. Scott Pelley looks for the answer and a at the possible solutions to the question of “who owns your mortgage”:

    It’s bizarre but, it turns out, Wall Street cut corners when it created those mortgage-backed investments that triggered the financial collapse. Now that banks want to evict people, they’re unwinding these exotic investments to find, that often, the legal documents behind the mortgages aren’t there. Caught in a jam of their own making, some companies appear to be resorting to forgery and phony paperwork to throw people – down on their luck – out of their homes.

    Sheila Bair, Chairperson of the FDIC, says she will call for a clean-up super fund

       Banks so poorly handled documentation on millions of mortgages that many today cannot prove that they own the homes they want to foreclose on. The resulting rash of lawsuits from people seeking to save their homes has one of the government’s top banking regulators worried that the torrent of litigation will delay the real estate market’s recovery.

       Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chair Sheila Bair tells Scott Pelley banks should be forced to contribute billions to a clean-up fund that will help stressed homeowners stay in their homes and stave off lawsuits – there are 30,000 already – that threaten the economic rebound […]

       Like last year, banks are expected to foreclose on a million mortgages this year, a scenario that could generate more lawsuits over mismanaged paperwork. “I think that this litigation could easily get out of control,” says Bair. “…We’re already feeling like we’re falling behind it,” She thinks a large clean-up pool funded by the banks that would pay homeowners to accept a bank’s ownership claim without a lawsuit is necessary. “I would assume it would be billions [that the fund would need],” Bair tells Pelley.

    But as, David Dayen points out, this “super fund” would not stop any claims in state courts on behalf of homeowners, federal regulators don’t have the authority to do that.

    And the more banks resist it, the more liable they will become. In an important case this week, a judge in Alabama dismissed a foreclosure because the bank failed to comply with the pooling and servicing agreement for transferring mortgages to the trust. This would be a stunning ruling if applied broadly, though whether or not it will stand as precedent across other states remains to be seen; it’s far too early in the process to determine that. But we know that banks simply did not convey mortgages to trusts properly as a general rule. Foreclosure fraud can be seen as a coverup for that original sin. And if state courts are starting to make rulings based on that sin, banks will be stuck and unable to pursue foreclosures on tens of millions of loans.

    The ruling in favor of the borrower endorses an argument we have made since last year on this blog, that the pooling and servicing agreement stipulated a specific set of transfers be undertaken to convey the borrower note (the IOU) to the securitization trust within a specified time frame. New York trust law was chosen to govern the trusts precisely because it is unforgiving; any act not specifically stipulated by the governing documents is deemed to be a “void act” and has no legal force. So if a the parties to a securitization failed to convey a note to the trust within the stipulated timetable, retroactive fixes don’t work. In this case, the note had been endorsed by the originator, Encore, but not by the later parties in the securitization chain as required in the pooling and servicing agreement.

    Yves Smith at naked capitalism, has a problem with what Bair said:

    One aspect that is distressing is that per her remarks in this clip, Sheila Bair does not appear to understand or worse, understands but is not willing to admit the seriousness of the chain of title issues. Often, the banks botched the transfer process in such a fundamental manner that retroactive fixes are not possible. This isn’t a matter of “if the banks spend enough time, they can prove the trust they are acting for owns the note” as Bair contends. It’s that in many cases the note didn’t get to the trust as stipulated, and the trust doesn’t have the ability under New York law, which governs virtually all of these trusts, to accept it now. A party earlier in the securitization chain is typically the owner, but no one wants that party to foreclose, since it would confirm the failure to handle the assignment of the note properly.

    I’m not so sure that this Congress would be amenable to another multi-billion dollar bail out but this is a better proposal that the one that would strip homeowners of their right to due process.

    (all emphasis is mine)

    The Green, Green Shoots of Hope

    “Well, let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet. …”

    -Winston Wolf

    A quick Google search brings up in the neighborhood of 28,000,000 results for the masterfully concocted propaganda term “Green Shoots”. Just when it appeared that looter capitalism was on the ropes with Jim ‘Mad Money’ Cramer being exposed as a preposterous fraud who shilled for the Wall Street casinos and angry mobs were descending on the homes of AIG bankers the oligarchy went to the mattresses to save their spoils system. Helicopter Ben came out and launched the first fusillade of this malarkey on his 60 Minutes interview of March 15th. This on the heels of the now famous leaked internal memo from Citigroup CEO Vikram ‘the Bandit’ Pandit that spoke of wonders of money falling from the sky and the healthy quarterly results of his banking colossus and the pure hit of optimism opium was picked up and run with by the corporate public relations armies and their pocket media. The crack ho economy received the kiss of the sweet, sweet spike and it’s been to the moon Alice ever since. But it’s all a big lie of Hitlerian proportions.

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