The Mortgage Fraud Scandal Is The Biggest In Human History
L. Randall Wray, Benzinga | Oct. 14, 2010
L. Randall Wray is a professor of economics at the University of Missouri -- Kansas City.
We have long known that lender fraud was rampant during the real estate boom. The FBI began warning of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud as early as 2004. We know that mortgage originators invented “low doc” and “no doc” loans, encouraged borrowers to take out “liar loans”, and promoted “NINJA loans” (no income, no job, no assets, no problem!). All of these schemes were fraudulent from the get-go. Property appraisers were involved, paid to overvalue real estate. That is fraud. The securitizers packaged trash into bundles that ratings agencies blessed with the triple A seal of approval. By their own admission, raters worked with securitizers to provide the rating desired, never looking at the loan tapes to see what they were rating. Fraud. Venerable investment banks like Goldman Sachs packaged the trashiest securities into collateralized debt obligations at the behest of hedge fund managers--who were allowed to choose the most toxic of the toxic waste—then sold the CDOs on to their own customers and allowed the hedge funds to bet against them. More fraud.
Indeed, the largest financial institutions were run by their management as what my colleague Bill Black calls “control frauds”. That is, the banks used accounting fraud to manufacture fake profits so that they could pay huge bonuses to top management. The latest data out on Wall Street bonuses show that these institutions are still run as control frauds, with another record year of bonuses paid by cooking the books. The fraud continues unabated.
This is the biggest scandal in human history. Indeed, all previous scandals from around the globe combined cannot even touch this one in terms of scale and scope and stench. This is the mother of all frauds and it will be etched into the history books for all time.
Many have called for a national moratorium on foreclosures. Even some of the banks that have been run as control frauds have voluntarily stopped foreclosing. And yet President Obama, ever the centrist, has taken sides with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which warns that “it would be catastrophic to impose a system-wide moratorium on all foreclosures and such actions could do damage to the housing market and the economy”.
No, it would expose the securities industry, itself, as the chief architect of the biggest scandal in human history. more
The First Domino: Foreclosure Fraud And The "Invisible Bailout"
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
October 12, 2010 - 6:18pm ET
The foreclosure fraud scandal is a big deal (or a big "effin'" deal, as Joe Biden might say). But its real significance is an even bigger deal. Foreclosure fraud is one domino, and if it falls others will follow. The result could be an end to the "invisible bailout" - the one you never hear about, the one that forces millions of people to subsidize bad lending practices in order to prop up Wall Street.
The invisible bailout is the reason why the government isn't pushing to freeze foreclosures. If the foreclosure process is halted and lending practices are thoroughly investigated, it might eventually force bankers to own up to their own lawlessness - and write down billions of dollars in artificially inflated assets. How are they going to pay themselves record bonuses if that happens?
How much could that cost? One in four US homes is underwater, which means that proper accounting would require a writedown of enormous proportions. And, as theAP reported, "forecasters at John Burns Real Estate Consulting predicted that 41 percent of residential sales this year would be on distressed properties." The banks have been counting on that revenue.
Write down one mortgage in four? Halt nearly half of all home sales?
Now that's a big effin' deal.
To play the game, first place the blame
Ever wonder why so many pundits and politicians keep hammering underwater homeowners as morally reprehensible, while giving bankers a free pass for lending to them? It's because the ongoing success of the bank bailout depends in part on protecting banks from having to account for the billions of dollars in bad loans they generated. How do you do that? By convincing the public that borrowers are the ones who were irresponsible, if not downright criminal, and that they have a moral obligation to pay banks the full value of these loans.
That's the agenda that gets served by pieces like last year's "Homeowner Bailouts Reward Irresponsibility," which singled out real estate flippers and lambasted people who overspent for houses they couldn't afford. But flippers are a tiny percentage of the real estate market, and those people with houses they "can't afford" were told they could afford them ... by the banks! moreAnd just a reminder--the fraud in the mortgage markets is a bigger deal for the banksters because there are so many folks that have the power to throw their crooked asses in jail. And no one has more incentives to take on a political prosecution than an ambitious state Attorney General.
States to Probe Mortgage Mess
Attorneys General Hope Lenders Will Re-Write Loans With Troubled Documents
By ROBBIE WHELAN And RUTH SIMON
A coalition of as many as 40 state attorneys general is expected Wednesday to announce an investigation into the mortgage-servicing industry, an effort some of them hope will pressure financial institutions to rewrite large numbers of troubled loans.
The move comes amid recent allegations that mortgage-servicers, which include units of major banks such as Bank of America Corp., submitted fraudulent documents in thousands of foreclosure proceedings nationwide.
The banks say the document problems are technical—largely the result of papers approved by so-called robo-signers with little review—and don't reflect substantive problems with foreclosures. Still, they have drawn criticism from consumer advocates and state and federal lawmakers.
"I think the mortgage-servicing firms need to understand that they face real exposure now, and they would be well advised to take this very seriously, to clean this up by doing loan workouts to keep people in their homes, which up till now they've just paid lip-service to," said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
Some in Congress have called for a moratorium on all foreclosures until the documentation issue is resolved, though senior Administration officials Monday again declined to endorse that idea. Servicers that have lied to courts by filing incorrect paperwork "need to suffer the consequences for their irresponsible actions," said Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But "where we have not found problems with particular servicers…we do have some risk of going too far."
The attorneys' general immediate aim is to determine the scale of the document problems and correct them. But several of them have said that the investigation could force the lenders and servicers to agree to mass loan modifications or principal forgiveness schemes. Other possibilities include financial penalties or changes in mortgage servicing practices.
Lenders and servicers have largely resisted reducing principal on mortgages, instead focusing on interest-rate reductions or term extensions. Banks say they are worried about lawsuits from investors, some of whom could lose money in a principal write down. more
Ohio Attorney General Fights Against Wall Street
By MICHAEL POWELL
Published: October 11, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Back East, at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets, the view is swell. The Dow is soaring, and bankers look pleased.
But here on East Broad Street, the mood is gloomier. At least 90,000 residential and commercial foreclosure notices will be filed in Ohio this year. Pension funds for teachers, secretaries and janitors have suffered grave losses. And multitudes of the unemployed in Ohio now speak of turning to prayer.
Ohio’s attorney general, Richard Cordray, might be seen as their pinstriped avenger.
“There’s a belief here that Wall Street is a fixed casino and it’s back in business, and we’re left holding the bag,” said Mr. Cordray, whose office overlooks East Broad. “It’s important for us to show we’ll go after a company that does wrong.”
Mr. Cordray in two years in office has demonstrated a willingness to sue early and often, filing lawsuits against global financial houses, rating agencies, subprime lenders and foreclosure scammers. He has wrested about $2 billion so far, a string of gilded pelts: a $475 million Merrill Lynchsettlement, $400 million from Marsh & McLennan and $725 million from the American International Group.
Last week, he filed suit against GMAC Mortgage, accusing the loan servicer of filing fraudulent affidavits in hundreds of Ohio foreclosures.
His office has returned money to investors, pension funds, schools and cities. And he has directed millions to agencies fighting foreclosure.
“We see what Washington doesn’t: the houses lying vacant, the eyesore stripped for copper piping with mattresses out back,” Mr. Cordray says. “We bailed out irresponsible banks, but we forgot about everyone else.” more