Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just to prove their paper is worth something

The last few days, we have been caring for a small (50 sq. ft.—4.65 sq. meter) deck that sticks out from the back of our kitchen.  For reasons unknown, the surface of the deck does not come under the homeowner's association maintenance agreement.  It is made from pressure-treated wood which lasts a LOT longer than untreated but after 7 winters, it was covered in a grunge of assorted mosses and molds.  It needed to be re-stained but first, it needed a thorough cleaning.  By me!

before and after
cleaned and prepped for stain on the right--click on image to enlarge
Around here, I get to prep such projects because I am really pretty awful with a paint brush.  I got some foaming, oxygen-bleach based cleaner, read the directions, got the hose with the best nozzle I had up on the deck, and went at it with as much gusto as this old guy can still muster.  The cleaner worked amazingly well but since I didn't have a pressure washer, it required three applications to get the wood as clean as I (and my painter partner) wanted.

So while I was proving to myself that I still have the old "instinct of workmanship," I thought about the nature of housing as an "investment."  When you are wearing big rubber gloves so you can scrub a mold stain from a mostly decorative piece of decking, the very idea that homes appreciate in value by themselves is beyond absurd.  Because the quality of a home is pretty much a function of the quality of the inhabitant, vacant homes owned by banksters will miss their deck scrubbings and rot will set in.  Multiply this tiny example by other missed maintenance, and it is clear that much of the paper created during the housing boom is now worth literally less than nothing because vacant housing depreciates—and pretty fast, too.

So what do you do when you have boxes full of paper worth nothing?  Why you sue someone who you think will be able to make your worthless paper worth something again.

FHFA Sues 17 U.S. And Euro Banks For Over $100 Billion In Losses
Courtney Comstock and Zeke Miller | Sep. 2, 2011

The Federal Housing Finance Administration has just announced mortgage-related lawsuits against 17 U.S. and Euro banks.

Bank of America has been sued over $30.85 billion in losses on securities.

Goldman Sachs has been sued over losses on $11.1 billion in securities.

Barclays has been sued for $4.9 billion in losses on securities.

UBS has been sued for over $900 million in losses on securities.

Nomura for over $2 billion in losses on securities.

Credit Suisse has now been sued, too.

Citigroup has been sued over losses totaling $3.5 billion in losses on securities.

Deutsche Bank has been sued for $14.2 billion in losses on securities.

JPMorgan has been sued for losses on $33 billion worth of securities. First Horizon, General Electric, and Ally Financial have been sued too.

HSBC has been sued over losses on $6.2 billion worth of securities.

Morgan Stanley has been sued over losses on $10.58 billion in Certificates issued in connection with 33 securitizations underwritten by the firm or its entities.

The lawsuits seek to recoup losses on a total of over $100 billion in securities. They are available for download on the FHFA's website.

Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and (now BofA subsidiary) Merrill Lynch have also been sued for fraud for making "false and/or misleading statements" about the securities and the underlying loans. The FHFA has asked for unspecified punitive damages against the companies.

Noteworthy: It sounds like the House Financial Services Committee was kept in the dark on this, signifying that the FHFA is acting as an independent agency on this one. Also, lots of people are named as individuals in the lawsuits. The White House did not comment on the lawsuits Friday afternoon.

The lawsuits, and the others that will follow it, were anticipated as early as at least late yesterday when the NYTimes reported that banks would be sued for their roles in the mortgage crisis.

The lawsuits seek damages in the BILLIONS — with specific dollar amounts to be determined if FHFA victorious at trial. more

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