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.