Freddie and Fannie won’t pay down your mortgage: CNN

This is why you need a FORENSIC AUDIT…Find the missing pieces of possible violations! DEMAND IT!

By Tami Luhby, senior writer May 14, 2010: 3:58 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Pressure is mounting on loan servicers and investors to reduce troubled homeowners’ loan balances…but the two largest owners of mortgages aren’t getting the message.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are controlled by the federal government, do not lower the principal on the loans they back, instead opting for interest rate reductions and term extensions when modifying loans.

But their stance is out of synch with the Obama administration, which is seeking to expand the use of principal writedowns. In late March, it announced servicers will be required to consider lowering balances in loan modifications.

And just who would tell Fannie (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie (FRE, Fortune 500) to start allowing principal reductions? The Obama administration.

Asked whether they will implement balance reductions, the companies and their regulator declined to comment. The Treasury Department also declined to comment.

What’s holding them back is the companies’ mandate to conserve their assets and limit their need for taxpayer-funded cash infusions, experts said. If Fannie and Freddie lower homeowners’ loan balances, they are locking in losses because they have to write down the value of those mortgages. Essentially, that means using tax dollars to pay people’s mortgages.

The housing crisis has already wreaked havoc on the pair’s balance sheets. Between them, they have received $127 billion — and recently requested another $19 billion — from the Treasury Department since they were placed into conservatorship in September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

Housing experts, however, say it’s time for Fannie and Freddie to start reducing principal. Treasury and the companies have already set aside $75 billion for foreclosure prevention, which can be spent on interest-rate reductions or principal write downs.

“Treasury has to bite the bullet and get Fannie and Freddie to participate,” said Alan White, a law professor at Valparaiso University. “It’s all Treasury money one way or the other.”

Though servicers are loathe to lower loan balances, a growing chorus of experts and advocates say it’s the best way to stem the foreclosure crisis. Homeowners are more likely to walk away if they owe far more than the home is worth, regardless of whether the monthly payment is affordable. Nearly one in four borrowers in the U.S. are currently underwater.

“Principal reduction in the long run will lower the risk of redefault,” said Vishwanath Tirupattur, a Morgan Stanley managing director and co-author of the firm’s monthly report on the U.S. housing market. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of loans backed by Fannie and Freddie are falling into default. Their delinquency rates are rising even faster than those of subprime mortgages as the weak economy takes its toll on more credit-worthy homeowners. Fannie’s default rate jumped to 5.47% at the end of March, up from 3.15% a year earlier, while Freddie’s rose to 4.13%, up from 2.41%.

On top of that, the redefault rates on their modified loans are far worse than on those held by banks, according to federal regulators.

Some 59.5% of Fannie’s loans and 57.3% of Freddie’s loans were in default a year after modification, compared to 40% of bank-portfolio mortgages, according to a joint report from the Office of Thrift Supervision and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This is part because banks are reducing the principal on their own loans, experts said.

So, advocates argue, lowering loan balances now can actually save the companies — and taxpayers — money later.

“It can be a financial benefit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the taxpayer,” said Edward Pinto, who was chief credit officer for Fannie in the late 1980s.

What might force the companies’ hand is another Obama administration foreclosure prevention plan called the Hardest Hit Fund, which has charged 10 states to come up with innovative ways to help the unemployed and underwater.

Four states have proposed using their share of the $2.1 billion fund to pay off up to $50,000 of underwater homeowners’ balances, but only if loan servicers and investors — including Fannie and Freddie — agree to match the writedowns. State officials are currently in negotiations with the pair.

“We remain optimistic that we can get a commitment from Fannie, Freddie and the banks to contribute to this strategy,” said David Westcott, director of homeownership programs for the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which is spearheading the state’s proposal.

 

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Basel II Overview: Basel II framework that sets capital requirements for banks.

Basel II Summary – What is Important to Know About the Basel II Framework By George J Lekatis

What is Basel II? Who is behind it? Who has developed it? Is it an international law? Do we have to comply? Who has to comply? May I have a Basel II Summary? These are very important questions, and it is good to start from their answers.

The Basel II Framework (the official name is “International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards: a Revised Framework”) is a new set of international standards and best practices that define the minimum capital requirements for internationally active banks. Banks have to maintain a minimum level of capital, to ensure that they can meet their obligations, they can cover unexpected losses, and can promote public confidence (which is of paramount importance for the international banking system).

Banks like to invest their money, not keep them for future risks. Regulatory capital (the minimum capital required) is an obligation. A low level of capital is a threat for the banking system itself: Banks may fail, depositors may lose their money, or they may not trust banks any more. This framework establishes an international minimum standard.

Basel II will be applied on a consolidated basis (combining the bank’s activities in the home country and in the host countries).

The framework has been developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), which is a committee in the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the world’s oldest international financial organization (established on 17 May 1930).

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision was established by the G10 (Group of Ten countries) in 1974. These 10 countries (have become 11) are the rich and developed countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The G10 were behind the development of the previous (Basel i) framework, and now they have endorsed the new Basel II set of papers (the main paper and the many explanatory papers). Only banks in the G10 countries have to implement the framework, but more than 100 countries have volunteered to adopt these principles, or to take these principles into account, and use them as the basis for their national rulemaking process.

Basel i was not risk sensitive. All loans given to corporate borrowers were subject to the same capital requirement, without taking into account the ability of the counterparties to repay. We ignored the credit rating, the credit history, the risk management and the corporate governance structure of all corporate borrowers. They were all the same: Private corporations.

Basel II is much more risk sensitive, as it is aligning capital requirements to the risks of loss. Better risk management in a bank means that the bank may be able to allocate less regulatory capital.

In Basel II we have three Pillars:

Pillar 1 has to do with the calculation of the minimum capital requirements. There are different approaches:

The standardized approach to credit risk: Banks rely on external measures of credit risk (like the credit rating agencies) to assess the credit quality of their borrowers.

The Internal Ratings-Based (IRB) approaches too credit risk: Banks rely partly or fully on their own measures of a counterparty’s credit risk, and determine their capital requirements using internal models.

Banks have to allocate capital to cover the Operational Risk (risk of loss because of errors, fraud, disruption of IT systems, external events, litigation etc.). This can be a difficult exercise.

The Basic Indicator Approach links the capital charge to the gross income of the bank. In the Standardized Approach, we split the bank into 7 business lines, and we have 7 different capital allocations, one per business line. The Advanced Measurement Approaches are based on internal models and years of loss experience.

Pillar 2 covers the Supervisory Review Process. It describes the principles for effective supervision.

Supervisors have the obligation to evaluate the activities, corporate governance, risk management and risk profiles of banks to determine whether they have to change or to allocate more capital for their risks (called Pillar 2 capital).

Pillar 3 covers transparency and the obligation of banks to disclose meaningful information to all stakeholders. Clients and shareholders should have a sufficient understanding of the activities of banks, and the way they manage their risks.

Here is a simple video to follow: By bionicturtledotcom

Quick overview of Basel II framework that sets capital requirements for banks. Three pillars contains the rules & support (supervisor review, market discipline) that say how much eligible regulatory capital must be held against risk-weighted assets.