Monday I did an analysis of a study HousingWire reported as showing that profligate borrowers were the reason many 2009 mortgage modifications failed. I analyzed the reported data to show the 2009 mods left borrowers insolvent, and said it’s not surprising that mods that leave borrowers insolvent fail. In the ‘article’, Showalter rejected the idea that mod terms mattered. Instead he claimed the borrowers’ “lifestyles” explained who defaulted and who didn’t.
But here’s the thing. As I explained Monday, the key “lifestyle” choice was which debt to default on: when insolvent, did the borrower pay Peter (the mortgage servicer) or pay Paul (store/credit card debt)? Indeed, the study was a marketing tool trying to sell the ability of a matrix invented by Veritas to identify which potential mod candidates would pay Peter, and which Paul, so the banks could modify loans only for the people who picked Peter. That focus makes the invocation of the irresponsible borrower myth in the article particularly egregious–both borrowers are trying to be responsible in the face of insolvency.