You can check out part one here if you already haven’t….
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on October 22, 2010 ·
(SDIs) “Systemically Dangerous Institutions” ~ Now we’re talkin… William K. Black and L. Randall Wray Posted: October 22, 2010 02:08 PM Foreclose on the Foreclosure Fraudsters, Part 1: Put Bank of America in Receivership Sorry for the long excerpt but it had to be done… After a quick review of its procedures, Bank of America … Read more
Now for part two…
Foreclose on the Foreclosure Fraudsters, Part 2: Spurious Arguments Against Holding the Fraudsters Accountable
Who is Guilty?
Let us deal with the “borrower fraud” argument first because it is the area containing the most erroneous assumptions. There was fraud at every step in the home finance food chain: the appraisers were paid to overvalue real estate; mortgage brokers were paid to induce borrowers to accept loan terms they could not possibly afford; loan applications overstated the borrowers’ incomes; speculators lied when they claimed that six different homes were their principal dwelling; mortgage securitizers made false reps and warranties about the quality of the packaged loans; credit ratings agencies were overpaid to overrate the securities sold on to investors; and investment banks stuffed collateralized debt obligations with toxic securities that were handpicked by hedge fund managers to ensure they would self destruct.
That homeowners would default on the nonprime mortgages was a foregone conclusion throughout the industry — indeed, it was the desired outcome. This was something the lending side knew, but which few on the borrowing side could have realized.
The homeowners were typically fraudulently induced by the lenders and the lenders’ agents (the loan brokers) to enter into nonprime mortgages. The lenders knew the “loan to value” (LTV) ratios and income to debt ratios that they wanted the borrower to (appear to) meet in order to make it possible for the lender to sell the nonprime loan at a premium. LTV can be gimmicked by inflating the appraisal. The debt to income ratios can be gimmicked by inflating income. “Liar’s” loan lenders used that loan format because it allowed the lender to simultaneously loan to a vast number of borrowers that could not repay their home loans, at a premium yield, while making it look to the purchaser of the loan that it was relatively low risk. Liar’s loans maximized the lender’s reported income, which maximized the CEO’s compensation.
The problem is that only the most sophisticated nonprime borrowers (the speculators who bought six homes) (1) knew the key ratios they had to appear to meet, (2) had the ability to induce an appraiser to inflate substantially the reported market value of the home, and (3) knew how to create false financial information that was internally consistent and credible. The solution was for the lender and the lender’s agents to (1) instruct the borrower to report a certain income or even to fill out the application with false information, (2) suborn an appraiser to provide the necessary inflated market value, and (3) create fraudulent financial information that had at least minimal coherence.
When the overburdened homeowner began missing payments, late fees and higher interest rates kicked-in, boosting the stated income of mortgage servicers and the value of the securities. Not coincidentally, the biggest banks own the servicers and could maximize claims against the mortgages by running up the late fees. It was quite convenient to “misplace” mortgage payments, so even homeowners who were never delinquent could get hit with fees and higher rates. And when payments were received, the servicers would (illegally) apply them first to the late fees, meaning the homeowners were unknowingly still missing mortgage payments. The foreclosure process itself generates big fees for the SDI banks.
And, miracle of miracles, the banks would end up with the homes and get to restart the whole process again — from resale of the home through the financing, securitizing, and fee-for-servicing juggernaut.
Unfortunately, it did not go quite as smoothly as planned. The SDIs were supposed to act like neutron bombs — killing the homeowners but leaving the homes standing, to be resold. The problem is that wiping out borrowers lowered the value of real estate, crushing not only the real estate market but also construction and through to all associated sectors from furniture and home restoration supplies to big ticket purchases that rely on home equity loans. It also led to questions about the value of the securitized toxic waste manufactured and held directly or indirectly by financial institutions.
Next, a few judges began to question the foreclosures, as they saw case after case in which the banks claimed to have lost the paperwork or submitted amateurishly forged documents. Or, several banks would go after the same homeowner, each claiming to hold the same mortgage (Bear sold the same mortgage over and over). Insiders began to offer depositions exposing fraud and perjury. It became apparent that in many and perhaps most cases, the trusts responsible for the securities (often these are “special purpose” subsidiaries of the banks) never received the “notes” signed by the borrowers — as required by both IRS tax code and by 45 of the US states. Without the notes, billions of dollars of back taxes could be due, and the foreclosures violate state law. Finally, the Attorneys General of all fifty states called for a foreclosure moratorium.
What to do? We suggest an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and a requirement that all notes be produced by purported holders of mortgages within a reasonable length of time. If they cannot be found, the mortgages — as well as the securities that pool them — are no longer valid. That means that the homeowners are not indebted, and that the homes are owned free and clear. And that, dear bankers, is a big, big problem. It is also the law — without evidence of debt, there is no debtor and no creditor.
Commentators are horrified that a foreclosure moratorium would let “deadbeat” borrowers remain in their homes while delinquent in their payments. The speculators that purchased “MacMansions” and stated on six separate loan applications that each house was their principal dwelling are frauds. The moratorium would (briefly) reward fraudulent borrowers while (briefly) punishing the fraudulent banks. This is true.
It is not possible to separate “worthy” borrowers who were duped by banks from all “unworthy” borrowers who knew the loan applications were false.
You can catch the rest here…