It’s either RICO Act or Control Fraud.

We are entering the Age of Rage.

It is presently most visible in Europe as austerity programs that potentially could shred a half century of social entitlement advances are met with increasingly violent street demonstrations.  It is seen in the US Tea Party rallies with their fury that the very fabric which the US capitalist system is based on is being destroyed and discarded. Unfortunately these demonstrations of rage are focusing on the effects and not the cause. The cause is a systemic plaque of unenforced financial control fraud.

Americans witnessed CEOs arrested during the nightly news coverage of the S&L Crisis of the early 90’s. They were placated as they heard the details of over 1000 indictments of the perpetrators of fraud. In the aftermath of the tech bubble implosion ten years later, injured investors once again witnessed the most senior executives at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Qwest and others being led off in handcuffs and disgrace to waiting police cruisers. Retirees with decimated retirement plans felt that some level of restitution had been made when 25 year sentences were meted out to these formerly high-flying felons.

After nearly two years since the greatest financial malfeasants in history and ten years since the last public example of financial crime, the public haven’t seen a single CEO sentenced to hard time for the financial meltdown. They have not had their thirst for revenge quenched by a single high level court case. Instead, the public infuriatingly witnesses politically crafted theater in congressional hearings that go nowhere, read watered down legislation that is replete with even richer lobbyist-authored loopholes and only occasionally see small headlines of quiet settlements with insulting token amends payments. Why? Were there no crimes committed? No laws broken?

The public is forced to accept excuses that we have enforcement agencies not enforcing, regulators not regulating and legislators not equipped to legislate properly in our modern fast moving financial world.  The public is left with the gnawing concern of whether it is incompetence or something much deeper, more troubling, and more sinister.  Confidence and trust in government and our democratically elected politicians continue to worsen from already pathetic levels.

The taxpayer while standing in long unemployment lines, reads in the newspapers of financial institutions that were making mind-numbing profits and paying horrendous executive bonuses suddenly being insolvent and needing taxpayer bailouts. Then as their unemployment benefits near exhaustion, they read of the banks’ profits soaring once again. These are the foundations of the emerging new age of public rage.

We have much more than a crisis of integrity. We have fraud that is so pervasive that it is now unknowingly institutionalized into our business and political culture. The sickening part is that it a like a cancer; if it’s not detected early, it will be too late to fight. We need to fully understand and prosecute the tenets of fraud before it is too late.

FRAUD

Fraud is the act of creating trust then betraying it. Fraud is deceit.

If I was to articulate this definition to the average person,  I believe the vast majority (without formal legal training) would immediately respond that this is exactly how they’d describe the financial crisis!  So why are there no indictments?  Is the fraud of liar’s loans, NINJA (No income, No Job, No Assets) loans, false housing appraisals, false AAA credit ratings and false contingent liability reporting so hard to prove? Not really. It takes an indictment and that’s often a much too political process in America.

Some would argue it was not intentional and therefore can’t be seen as a felony. They‘d say it is more a matter of civil damages. Again, wrong.

CONTROL FRAUD

What emerged from the S&P debacle was the concept of control fraud. At the core of financial control fraud is the notion that a CEO would deliberately use the S&L as a camouflage to make bad loans, thereby gutting the underwriting process while knowing full well that the loans would statistically fail over the long run. By doing this, money is made in the initial stages, exactly in the fashion of a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Profits are declared and rich bonuses are paid. Stocks soar and rich stock options are executed. Then when the inevitable day arrives as the defaults emerge, the CEO takes the company into bankruptcy with no claw-back provisions, or an even newer and richer approach – the CEO seeks government bailouts to replace the pillaged balance sheet.

Corporate Control Fraud might be viewed as having four tell-tales:

1.     Deliberately making bad loans or investments.

2.     Exceptionally High Growth (because improperly accounted profits are being booked today).

3.     The use of extraordinary leverage to maximize profits while profits are artificially available.

4.     False representation of actuarial appropriate loss reserves.

Sound eerily familiar?

The S&L debacle prompted the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) Law (US Code: Title 12,1831o). William K Black the author of “ The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry, “ argues that this law is presently being broken through the misrepresentation of bank asset positions.  Additionally, because the Prompt Corrective Action Law is not being enforced, the felony of accounting control fraud is being committed.

Control fraud theory was developed in the savings and loan debacle. It explained that the person controlling the S&L (typically the CEO) posed a unique risk because he could use it as a weapon.  The theory synthesized criminology (Wheeler and Rothman 1982), economics (Akerlof 1970), accounting, law, finance, and political science. It explained how a CEO optimized “his” S&L as a weapon to loot creditors and shareholders.

The weapon of choice was accounting fraud. The company is the perpetrator and a victim. Control frauds are optimal looters because the CEO has four unique advantages. He uses his ability to hire and fire to suborn internal and external controls and make them allies. Control frauds consistently get “clean” opinions for financial statements that show record profitability when the company is insolvent and unprofitable. CEOs choose top-tier auditors. Their reputation helps deceive creditors and shareholders.

Only the CEO can optimize the company for fraud. He has it invest in assets that have no clear market value. Professionals evaluate such assets-allowing the CEO to hire ones who will inflate values. Rapid growth (as in a Ponzi scheme) extends the fraud and increases the “take.” S&Ls optimized accounting fraud by loaning to uncreditworthy and criminal borrowers (who promised to pay the highest rates and fees because they did not intend to repay, but the promise sufficed for the auditors to permit booking the profits). The CEO extends the fraud through “sales” of the troubled assets to “straws” that transmute losses into profits. Accounting fraud produced guaranteed record profits-and losses.

CEOs have the unique ability to convert company assets into personal funds through normal corporate mechanisms. Accounting fraud causes stock prices to rise. The CEO sells shares and profits. The successful CEO receives raises, bonuses, perks, and options and gains in status and reputation. Audacious CEOs use political contributions to influence the external environment to aid fraud by fending off the regulators. Charitable contributions aid the firm’s legitimacy and the CEO’s status. S&L CEOs were able to loot the assets of large, rapidly growing organizations for many years. They used accounting fraud to mimic legitimate firms, and the markets did not spot the fraud. The steps that maximized their accounting profits maximized their losses, which dwarfed all other forms of property crimes combined. (1)

I have written extensively about the degree to which the banks 10K and 10Q balance sheets do not represent current fair market value of their assets. When the FDIC continuously takes over banks and declares that asset values are 25- 35% overvalued, there’s no further proof required. The banks, which are sold as part of the regular FDIC  “Friday night bank lottery” continuously see no CEOs indicted for falsely representing FDIC-insured assets. We the taxpayers are then unwittingly presented with the tab.

Secretaries Paulson and Geithner subverted the PCA law by allowing failed banks to engage in massive accounting fraud (which also means they are engaged in securities fraud). Treasury is telling the world that resolving the failed banks will require roughly $2 trillion dollars. That has to mean that the failed banks are insolvent by roughly $2 trillion. The failed banks, however, are reporting that they are not simply solvent, but “well capitalized.” The regulators flout PCA by permitting this massive accounting and securities fraud. (Note that by countenancing this fraud they make it extremely difficult to ever prosecute these elite white-collar frauds.)  (5)

Above, I made the assertion that indictments are too political a process in America. Control Fraud isn’t unique to just CEOs. Heads of sovereign governments and their empowered representatives also fall within this type of fraud. We once again see ourselves moving upwards hierarchically towards people in authority, who are charged with a fiduciary and judiciary responsibility, taking positions that enrich or politically benefit themselves at the expense of the innocent. This is fraud. Though we find ourselves asking, where are they when we most need them, we should be asking, who will bring them to justice?

If you think this is not widespread, how do you rationalize that it was recently reported that Goldman Sachs never had a trading day loss in April yet its clients in eight out of ten cases lost money.  Incompetence? Stupidity? The Financial Times reports “The trading operations of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase made money every single business day in the first quarter … Goldman’s trading desk recorded a profit of at least $25m(£16.8) on each of the quarter’s 63 working days, making more than $100m a day on 35 occasions, according to a regulatory filing issued on Monday …  JPMorgan also achieved a loss-free quarter in its trading unit – making an average of $118m a day, nearly $5m an hour”. Morgan Stanley reported trading profits on a mere 93% of the first quarter trading days. This defies any sort of logic in a freely trading markets, unless the markets are controlled and the game fixed. These are better odds than owning a casino.

As A frustrated Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge observes: “if you ever wanted to see what a monopoly looks like in chart form:

The firm did not record a loss of even $0.01 on even one day in the last quarter,” Durden says. “The statistic probability of this event is itself statistically undefined. Goldman is now the market – or, in keeping with modern market reality, Goldman is the ‘house,’ it controls the casino, and always wins. Congratulations America: you now have far, far better odds in Las Vegas that you have making money with your E-Trade account.” (7)

The famous Barnum & Bailey carnival barkers used to snidely boast “there’s a sucker born every minute”. The carnival games were notoriously fixed so the ‘sucker’ almost certainly lost. I’m not indicting anyone here (I will leave that to our alarmingly incompetent regulatory and enforcement agencies), but rather I’m only reinforcing why we have entered an age of public rage and why I felt compelled to write the Extend & Pretend series of articles.

GRESHAM’S LAW

As the concept of control fraud emerged from the S&L crisis, an expansion of Gresham’s Law — has begun to be sketched out by Bill Black —

It will no doubt emerge out of this depression.

Gresham’s Law describes how “bad money drives out good.” Expanding on that idea, what Black calls “A Gresham’s Dynamic” operates similarly, when cheaters profit and “the dishonest drive out the honest.”

CLICK FOR VIDEO

Dr. William Black, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Thursday, Feb. 18th, 2010, 7:30-9:00 PM, at the Council Chamber.
The title of Dr. Black’s talk is: Why Elite Frauds Cause Recurrent, Intensifying Economic, Political and Moral Crises.


RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS (RICO) ACT

Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering.   Racketeering activity includes:

In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.

It seems it is the same names I continue to read about in the press. Do these financial institutions settle to avoid the magic ‘2 committed felony’ threshold qualification for a RICO indictment?

On March 29, 1989, financier Michael Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud relating to an investigation into insider trading and other offenses. Milken was accused of using a wide-ranging network of contacts to manipulate stock and bond prices. It was one of the first occasions that a RICO indictment was brought against an individual with no ties to organized crime. Milken pled guilty to six lesser offenses rather than face spending the rest of his life in prison. On September 7, 1988, Milken’s employer, Drexel Burnham Lambert, was also threatened with a RICO indictment under the legal doctrine that corporations are responsible for their employees’ crimes. Drexel avoided RICO charges by pleading no contest to lesser felonies. While many sources say that Drexel pleaded guilty, in truth the firm only admitted it was “not in a position to dispute the allegations.” If Drexel had been indicted, it would have had to post a performance bond of up to $1 billion to avoid having its assets frozen. This would have taken precedence over all of the firm’s other obligations—including the loans that provided 96 percent of its capital. If the bond ever had to be paid, its shareholders would have been practically wiped out. Since banks will not extend credit to a firm indicted under RICO, an indictment would have likely put Drexel out of business. Is this really what is behind too big to fail prosecution? (6)

You don’t need a fancy high priced Philadelphia lawyer to tell you that “when the glove fits you can’t acquit!”  – A little old fashion common sense is all that is required.

CONCLUSION

The Age of Rage during the French revolution cost people their heads when the guillotine administered public justice daily for the angry masses. Political and bureaucratic heads will also roll in the future if justice is not soon administered. As Marie Antoinette learned too late, it may be much worse than merely the loss of an elected position with all its trappings.

It takes public rage for someone to spend the time to create expressions of frustration like the above graphic represents!

SOURCES:

(1) 08-30-08 The Control Fraud Theory Bizcovering

(2) US Code: Title 12, 1831o. Prompt Corrective Action

(3) April 2009 William K. Black on The Prompt Corrective Action Law Bill Moyers Journal

(4) Accounting Control Fraud Google Scholar

(5) 02-23-09 Why Is Geithner Continuing Paulson’s Policy of Violating the Law? The Huffington Post

(6) RICO – Wikipedia

(7) 05-12-10 Goldman’s Perfect Quarter Eric Fry The Daily Reckoning

C

Gordon T Long

Tipping Points

Mr. Long is a former senior group executive with IBM & Motorola, a principle in a high tech public start-up and founder of a private venture capital fund. He is presently involved in private equity placements internationally along with proprietary trading involving the development & application of Chaos Theory and Mandelbrot Generator algorithms.

Gordon T Long is not a registered advisor and does not give investment advice. His comments are an expression of opinion only and should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as recommendations to buy or sell a stock, option, future, bond, commodity or any other financial instrument at any time. While he believes his statements to be true, they always depend on the reliability of his own credible sources. Of course, he recommends that you consult with a qualified investment advisor, one licensed by appropriate regulatory agencies in your legal jurisdiction, before making any investment decisions, and barring that, you are encouraged to confirm the facts on your own before making important investment commitments.

© Copyright 2010 Gordon T Long. The information herein was obtained from sources which Mr. Long believes reliable, but he does not guarantee its accuracy. None of the information, advertisements, website links, or any opinions expressed constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of any securities or commodities. Please note that Mr. Long may already have invested or may from time to time invest in securities that are recommended or otherwise covered on this website. Mr. Long does not intend to disclose the extent of any current holdings or future transactions with respect to any particular security. You should consider this possibility before investing in any security based upon statements and information contained in any report, post, comment or recommendation you receive from him.

Banks Have Recognized 60% of Expected Loan Charge-Offs: Moody’s

Gee, and here I thought that the Federal Reserve bought $1.4-$2 *trillion* of them! Let alone Lehman and its 50 billion in subprime mortgages that it “hid” (and what about all the other TARP/Federal Reserve member banks??)

BY: CARRIE BAY 6/3/2010 DSNEWS

n its latest quarterly report on credit conditions of the U.S. banking system, Moody’s Investors Service says banks’ asset quality issues are “past the peak” butcharge-offs and non-performers continue to eat away at profitability and sheer fundamentals.

Based on Moody’s market data, banks’ non-performing loans stood at 5.0 percent of total loan assets at March 31, 2010.

Moody’s says U.S. rated banks have already charged off or written-down $436 billion of loans in 2008, 2009, and the first quarter of 2010. That leaves another $307 billion to reach the rating agency’s full estimate of $744 billion of loan charge-offs from 2008 through 2011.

In aggregate, the banks have recognized 60 percent of Moody’s estimated total charge-offs and 65 percent of estimated residential mortgage losses, but only 45 percent of projected commercial real estate losses.

In the first quarter of this year, the banking industry’s collective annualized net charge-offs came to 3.3 percent of loans, versus 3.6 percent of loans in the fourth quarter

of 2009, Moody’s said. Despite two consecutive quarters of improvement in charge-offs, the ratings agency notes that the figures still remain near historic highs, dating back to the Great Depression.

According to Moody’s analysts, the decline in aggregate charge-offs was driven by commercial real estate improvement, which “we believe is likely to reverse in coming quarters,” they said in the report. A similar commercial real estate decline was experienced in the first quarter of 2009 before charge-offs accelerated through the rest of the year.

“The return to ‘normal’ levels of asset quality will be slow and uneven over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Moody’sSVP Craig Emrick.

But Emrick added that “Although remaining losses are sizable, they are beginning to look manageable in relation to bank’s loan loss allowances and tangible common equity.”

U.S. banks’ allowances for loan losses stood at $221 billion as of March 31, 2010, which is equal to 4.1 percent of loans, Moody’s reported. Although this can be used to offset a sizable portion of remaining charge-offs, banks will still require substantial provisions in 2010, the agency said.

Moody’s says its negative outlook for the U.S. banking system is driven by asset quality concerns and effects on profitability and capital. The agency’s ratings outlook is also influenced by the potential for a worse-than-expected macroeconomic environment, Moody’s said.

“More severe macroeconomic developments, the probability of which we place at 10 percent to 20 percent, would significantly strain U.S. bank fundamental credit quality,” Moody’s analysts wrote in their report.

FINALLY!!! Supreme Court of Florida DENIES FORECLOSURE MILLS Ben-Ezra and Katz, P.A.’s Motion for Rehearing and Shapiro and Fishman, LLP’s Motion for Rehearing

via 4ClosureFraud

RE: Verification of Complaints

NO MORE EXCUSES

Supreme Court of Florida

THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 2010
CASE NOS.: SC09-1460 AND SC09-1579
IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IN
RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – FORM 1.996
(FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORECLOSURE)

In light of the revised opinion, Ben-Ezra and Katz, P.A.’s Motion for Rehearing and Shapiro and Fishman, LLP’s Motion for Rehearing or Clarification are hereby

DENIED

IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

REVISED

Judge ARTHUR SCHACK’s COLASSAL Steven J. BAUM “MiLL” SMACK DOWN!! HSBC BANK USA, NA v. YEASMIN, 2010 NY Slip Op 50927 – NY: Supreme Court, Kings 2010

2010 NY Slip Op 50927(U)

HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES

2006-AF1,, Plaintiff,
v.
LOVELY YEASMIN, ET. AL., Defendants.

34142/07

Supreme Court, Kings County.

Decided May 24, 2010.

Steven J Baum, PC, Amherst NY, Plaintiff — US Bank.

ARTHUR M. SCHACK, J.

Plaintiff’s renewed motion for an order of reference, for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is denied with prejudice. The instant action is dismissed and the notice of pendency for the subject property is cancelled. Plaintiff HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1 (HSBC) failed to comply with my May 2, 2008 decision and order in the instant matter (19 Misc 3d 1127 [A]), which granted plaintiff HSBC leave:

to renew its application for an order of reference for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), upon presentation to the Court, within forty-five (45) days of this decision and order of:

(1) a valid assignment of the instant mortgage and note to plaintiff, HSBC . . .;

(2) an affirmation from Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. [MERS], the assignor of the instant mortgage and note, and HSBC . . . the assignee of the instant mortgage and note, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action, with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved” explained to them;

(3) compliance with the statutory requirements of CPLR § 3215 (f), by an affidavit of facts executed by someone with authority to execute such an affidavit, and if the affidavit of facts is executed by a loan servicer, a copy of a valid power of attorney to the loan servicer, and the servicing agreement authorizing the affiant to act in the instant foreclosure action; and

(4) an affidavit from an officer of plaintiff HSBC . . . explaining why plaintiff HSBC . . . purchased a nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE HOME CAPITAL, LLC [CAMBRIDGE].

[Emphasis added]

Plaintiff made the instant motion on January 6, 2009, 249 days subsequent to the May 2, 2008 decision and order. Thus, the instant motion is 204 days late. Plaintiff’s unavailing lateness explanation, in ¶ 16 of plaintiff’s counsel’s January 6, 2009 affirmation of regularity, states:

A previous application has been made for this or like relief but was subsequently denied without prejudice with leave to renew upon proper papers. By Decision and Order of this court dated the 2nd day of May 2008, plaintiff had 45 days to renew its application.

However on June 29, 2008 the Plaintiff permitted the mortgagor to enter into a foreclosure forbearance agreement. Said agreement was entered into with the hope that the Defendant would be able to keep her home. The agreement was not kept by the mortgagor and Plaintiff has since resumed the foreclosure action. The defects of the original application are addressed in the Affirmation attached hereto at Tab F [sic].

June 29, 2008 was 58 days subsequent to May 2, 2008. This was 13 days subsequent to the Court ordered deadline for plaintiff to make a renewed motion for an order of reference. While it’s laudatory for plaintiff HSBC to have granted defendant a forbearance agreement, plaintiff HSBC never notified the Court about this or sought Court approval of extending the 45-day deadline to make the instant motion. However, even if the instant motion was timely, the documents plaintiff’s counsel refers to at Tab F [exhibit F of motion] do not cure the defects the Court found with the original motion and articulated in the May 2, 2008 decision and order.

Background

 

Defendant LOVELY YEASMIN borrowed $624,800.00 from CAMBRIDGE on May 10, 2006. The note and mortgage were recorded by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, for purposes of recording the mortgage, in the Office of the City Register, New York City Department of Finance, on May 23, 2006, at City Register File Number (CRFN) XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Then, MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, assigned the mortgage to plaintiff HSBC on September 10, 2007, with the assignment recorded in the Office of the City Register, on September 20, 2007, at CRFN XXXXXXXXXXXXX. The assignment was executed by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq., on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07.” Neither a corporate resolution nor a power of attorney to Ms. Gazzo were recorded with the September 10, 2007 assignment. Therefore, the Court found the assignment invalid and plaintiff HSBC lacked standing to bring the instant foreclosure action. Ms. Gazzo, the assignor, according to the Office of Court Administration’s Attorney Registration, has as her business address, “Steven J. Baum, P.C., 220 Northpointe Pkwy Ste G, Buffalo, NY 14228-1894.” On September 10, 2008, the same day that Ms. Gazzo executed the invalid assignment for MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., commenced the instant action on behalf of purported assignee HSBC by filing the notice of pendency, summons and complaint in the instant action with the Kings County Clerk’s Office. The Court, in the May 2, 2008 decision and order, was concerned that the simultaneous representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both MERS and HSBC was a conflict of interest in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, the Disciplinary Rule of the Code of Professional Responsibility entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation,” then in effect. Further, plaintiff’s moving papers for an order of reference and related relief failed to present an “affidavit made by the party,” pursuant to CPLR § 3215 (f). The instant application contained an “affidavit of merit and amount due,” dated November 16, 2007, by Cathy Menchise, “Senior Vice President of WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. D/B/A AMERICA’S SERVICING COMPANY, Attorney in Fact for HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1.” Ms. Menchise stated “[t]hat a true copy of the Power of Attorney is attached hereto.” Actually attached was a photocopy of a “Limited Power of Attorney,” dated July 19, 2004, from HSBC, appointing WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. as its attorney-in-fact to perform various enumerated services, by executing documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements . . . in connection with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.[‘s] . . . responsibilities to service certain mortgage loans . . . held by HSBC . . . as Trustee of various trusts.” The “Limited Power of Attorney” failed to list any of these “certain mortgage loans.” The Court was unable to determine if plaintiff HSBC’s subject mortgage loan was covered by this “Limited Power of Attorney.” The original motion stated that defendant YEASMIN defaulted on her mortgage payments by failing to make her May 1, 2007 and subsequent monthly loan payments. Yet, on September 10, 2007, 133 days subsequent to defendant YEASMIN’S alleged May 1, 2007 payment default, plaintiff HSBC took the ssignment of the instant nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE. Thus, the Court required, upon renewal of the motion for an order of reference, a satisfactory explanation of why HSBC purchased a nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE.

Plaintiff HSBC needed “standing” to proceed in the instant action. The Court of Appeals (Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, Inc. v Pataki, 100 NY2d 801, 912 [2003]), cert denied 540 US 1017 [2003]), held that “[s]tanding to sue is critical to the proper functioning of the judicial system. It is a threshold issue. If standing is denied, the pathway to the courthouse is blocked. The plaintiff who has standing, however, may cross the threshold and seek judicial redress.” In Carper v Nussbaum, 36 AD3d 176, 181 (2d Dept 2006), the Court held that “[s]tanding to sue requires an interest in the claim at issue in the lawsuit that the law will recognize as a sufficient predicate for determining the issue at the litigant’s request.” If a plaintiff lacks standing to sue, the plaintiff may not proceed in the action. (Stark v Goldberg,297 AD2d 203 [1d Dept 2002]). “Since standing is jurisdictional and goes to a court’s authority to resolve litigation [the court] can raise this matter sua sponte.” (Axelrod v New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, 154 AD2d 827, 828 [3d Dept 1989]).

In the instant action, the September 10, 2007 assignment from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to HSBC was defective. Therefore, HSBC had no standing to bring this action. The recorded assignment by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq. on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07,” had neither the corporate resolution nor a power of attorney attached. Real Property Law (RPL) § 254 (9) states: Power of attorney to assignee. The word “assign” or other words of assignment, when contained in an assignment of a mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, must be construed as having included in their meaning that the assignor does thereby make, constitute and appoint the assignee the true and lawful attorney, irrevocable, of the assignor, in the name of the assignor, or otherwise, but at the proper costs and charges of the assignee, to have, use and take all lawful ways and means for the recovery of the money and interest secured by the said mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, and in case of payment to discharge the same as fully as the assignor might or could do if the assignment were not made. [Emphasis added]

To have a proper assignment of a mortgage by an authorized agent, a power of attorney is necessary to demonstrate how the agent is vested with the authority to assign the mortgage. “No special form or language is necessary to effect an assignment as long as the language shows the intention of the owner of a right to transfer it [Emphasis added].” (Tawil v Finkelstein Bruckman Wohl Most & Rothman, 223 AD2d 52, 55 [1d Dept 1996]). (See Suraleb, Inc. v International Trade Club, Inc., 13 AD3d 612 [2d Dept 2004]). To foreclose on a mortgage, a party must have title to the mortgage. The instant assignment was a nullity. The Appellate Division, Second Department (Kluge v Fugazy, 145 AD2d 537, 538 [2d Dept 1988]), held that a “foreclosure of a mortgage may not be brought by one who has no title to it and absent transfer of the debt, the assignment of the mortgage is a nullity.” Citing Kluge v Fugazy, the Court inKatz v East-Ville Realty Co. (249 AD2d 243 [1d Dept 1998]), held that “[p]laintiff’s attempt to foreclose upon a mortgage in which he had no legal or equitable interest was without foundation in law or fact.” Plaintiff HSBC, with the invalid assignment of the instant mortgage and note from MERS, lacked standing to foreclose on the instant mortgage. The Court, in Campaign v Barba (23 AD3d 327 [2d Dept 2005]), held that “[t]o establish a prima facie case in an action to foreclose a mortgage, the plaintiff must establish the existence of the mortgage and the mortgage note, ownership of the mortgage, and the defendant’s default in payment [Emphasis added].” (See Household Finance Realty Corp. of New York v Wynn, 19 AD3d 545 [2d Dept 2005]; Sears Mortgage Corp. v Yahhobi, 19 AD3d 402 [2d Dept 2005]; Ocwen Federal Bank FSB v Miller, 18 AD3d 527 [2d Dept 2005]; U.S. Bank Trust Nat. Ass’n v Butti, 16 AD3d 408 [2d Dept 2005]; First Union Mortgage Corp. v Fern, 298 AD2d 490 [2d Dept 2002]; Village Bank v Wild Oaks Holding, Inc., 196 AD2d 812 [2d Dept 1993]). Even if plaintiff HSBC can cure the assignment defect, plaintiff’s counsel has to address his conflict of interest in the representation of both assignor MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, and assignee HSBC. 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, of the Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation,” states in relevant part: (a) A lawyer shall decline proffered employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of the proffered employment, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section. (b) A lawyer shall not continue multiple employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the lawyer’s representation of another client, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section. (c) in the situations covered by subdivisions (a) and (b) of this section, a lawyer may represent multiple clients if a disinterested lawyer would believe that the lawyer can competently represent the interest of each and if each consents to the representation after full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved. [Emphasis added]

The Court, upon renewal of the instant motion for an order of reference wanted to know if both MERS and HSBC were aware of the simultaneous representation by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., and whether both MERS and HSBC consented. Upon plaintiff’s renewed motion for an order of reference, the Court required an affirmation by Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MERS and HSBC consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved.” The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the Department, in which both Ms. Gazzo and Mr. Baum are registered (In re Rogoff, 31 AD3d 111 [2006]), censured an attorney for, inter alia, violating 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, by representing both a buyer and sellers in the sale of a motel. The Court, at 112, found that the attorney “failed to make appropriate disclosures to either the sellers or the buyer concerning dual representation.” Further, the Rogoff Court, at 113, censured the attorney, after it considered the matters submitted by respondent in mitigation, including: that respondent undertook the dual representation at the insistence of the buyer, had no financial interest in the transaction and charged the sellers and the buyer one half of his usual fee. Additionally, we note that respondent cooperated with the Grievance Committee and has expressed remorse for his misconduct. Then, if counsel for plaintiff HSBC cures the assignment defect and explains his simultaneous representation, plaintiff HSBC needs to address the “affidavit of merit” issue. The May 2, 2008 decision and order required that plaintiff comply with CPLR § 3215 (f) by providing an “affidavit made by the party,” whether by an officer of HSBC, or someone with a valid power of attorney from HSBC, to execute foreclosure documents for plaintiff HSBC. If plaintiff HSBC presents a power of attorney and it refers to a servicing agreement, the Court needs to inspect the servicing agreement. (Finnegan v Sheahan, 269 AD2d 491 [2d Dept 2000];Hazim v Winter, 234 AD2d 422 [2d Dept 1996]; EMC Mortg. Corp. v Batista, 15 Misc 3d 1143 [A] [Sup Ct, Kings County 2007]; Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co. v Lewis, 4 Misc 3d 1201 [A] [Sup Ct, Suffolk County 2006]).

Last, the Court required an affidavit from an officer of HSBC, explaining why, in the middle of our national mortgage financial crisis, plaintiff HSBC purchased from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, the subject nonperforming loan. It appears that HSBC violated its corporate fiduciary duty to its stockholders by purchasing the instant mortgage loan, which became nonperforming on May 1, 2007, 133 days prior to its assignment from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to HSBC, rather than keep the subject mortgage loan on CAMBRIDGE’s books.

Discussion

 

The instant renewed motion is dismissed for untimeliness. Plaintiff made its renewed motion for an order of reference 204 days late, in violation of the Court’s May 2, 2008 decision and order. Moreover, even if the instant motion was timely, the explanations offered by plaintiff’s counsel, in his affirmation in support of the instant motion and various documents attached to exhibit F of the instant motion, attempting to cure the four defects explained by the Court in the prior May 2, 2008 decision and order, are so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authored by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction televison series, The Twilight Zone. Plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., appears to be operating in a parallel mortgage universe, unrelated to the real universe. Rod Serling’s opening narration, to episodes in the 1961-1962 season of The Twilight Zone (found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt005250/quotes), could have been an introduction to the arguments presented in support of the instant motion by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C. — “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.” With respect to the first issue for the renewed motion for an order of reference, the validity of the September 10, 2007 assignment of the subject mortgage and note by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to plaintiff HSBC by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq., on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07,” plaintiff’s counsel claims that the assignment is valid because Ms. Gazzo is an officer of MERS, not an agent of MERS. Putting aside Ms. Gazzo’s conflicted status as both assignor attorney and employee of assignee’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., how would the Court have known from the plain language of the September 10, 2007 assignment that the assignor, Ms. Gazzo, is an officer of MERS? She does not state in the assignment that she is an officer of MERS and the corporate resolution is not attached. Thus, counsel’s claim of a valid assignment takes the Court into “another dimension” with a “journey into a wondrous land of imagination,” the mortgage twilight zone. Next, plaintiff’s counsel attached to exhibit F the July 17, 2007 “Agreement for Signing Authority” between MERS, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a Division of Wells Fargo Bank NA (WELLS FARGO), a MERS “Member” and Steven J. Baum, P.C., as WELLS FARGO’s “Vendor.” The parties agreed, in ¶ 3, that “in order for Vendor [Baum] to perform its contractual duties to Member [WELLS FARGO], MERS, by corporate resolution, will grant employees of Vendor [Baum] the limited authority to act on behalf of MERS to perform certain duties. Such authority is set forth in the Resolution, which is made a part of this Agreement.” Also attached to exhibit F is the MERS corporate resolution, certified by William C. Hultman, Corporate Secretary of MERS, that MERS’ Board of Directors adopted this resolution, effective July 19, 2007, resolving:

that the attached list of candidates are employee(s) of Steven J. Baum, P.C. and are hereby appointed as assistant secretaries and vice presidents of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., and as such are authorized to: Execute any and all documents necessary to foreclose upon the property securing any mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is shown to be registered to the Member . . . Take any and all actions and execute all documents necessary to protect the interest of the Member, the beneficial owner of such mortgage loan, or MERS in any bankruptcy proceedings . . . Assign the lien of any mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is shown to be registered to Wells Fargo.

Then, the resolution certifies five Steven J. Baum, P.C. employees [all currently admitted to practice in New York and listing Steven J. Baum, P.C. as their employer in the Office of Court Administration Attorney Registry] as MERS officers. The five are Brian Kumiega, Nicole Gazzo, Ron Zackem, Elpiniki Bechakas, and Darleen Karaszewski. The language of the MERS corporate resolution flies in the face of documents recorded with the City Register of the City of New York. The filed recordings with the City Register show that the subject mortgage was owned first by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, and then by HSBC as Trustee for a Nomura collateralized debt obligation. However, if the Court follows the MERS’corporate resolution and enters into a new dimension of the mind, the mortgage twilight zone, the real owner of the subject mortgage is WELLS FARGO, the MERS Member and loan servicer of the subject mortgage, because the corporate resolution states that the Member is “the beneficial owner of such mortgage loan.” The MERS mortgage twilight zone was created in 1993 by several large “participants in the real estate mortgage industry to track ownership interests in residential mortgages. Mortgage lenders and other entities, known as MERS members, subscribe to the MERS system and pay annual fees for the electronic processing and tracking of ownership and transfers of mortgages. Members contractually agree to appoint MERS to act as their common agent on all mortgages they register in the MERS system.” (MERSCORP, Inc. v Romaine, 8 NY3d 90, 96 [2006]). Next, with respect to Ms. Gazzo’s employer, Steven J. Baum, P.C, and its representation of MERS, through Ms. Gazzo, the Court continues to journey through the mortgage twilight zone. Also, attached to exhibit F of the instant motion is the August 11, 2008 affirmation of Steven J. Baum, Esq., affirmed “under the penalties of perjury.” Mr. Baum states, in ¶ 3, that “My firm does not represent HSBC . . . and MERS simultaneously in the instant action.” Then, apparently overlooking that the subject notice of pendency, summons, complaint and instant motion, which all clearly state that Steven J. Baum, P.C. is the attorney for plaintiff HSBC, Mr. Baum states, in ¶ 4 of his affirmation, that “My firm is the attorney of record for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., d/b/a America’s Servicing Company, attorney in fact for HSBC Bank USA, N.A., as Trustee for Nomura Asset-Backed Certificate Series 2006-AF1. My firm does not represent . . . [MERS] as an attorney in this action.” In the mortgage world according to Steven J. Baum, Esq., there is a fine line between acting as an attorney for MERS and as a vendor for a MERS member. If Mr. Baum is not HSBC’s attorney, but the attorney for WELLS FARGO, why did he mislead the Court and defendants by stating on all the documents filed and served in the instant action that he is plaintiff’s attorney for HSBC? Further, in ¶ 6 of his affirmation, he states “Nowhere does the Resolution indicate that Ms. Gazzo, or my firm, or any attorney or employee of my firm, shall act as an attorney for MERS. As such I am unaware of any conflict of interest of Steven J. Baum, P.C. or any of its employees, in this action.” While Mr. Baum claims to be unaware of the inherent conflict of interest, the Court is aware of the conflict. ¶ 3 of the MERS “Agreement for Signing Authority,” cited above, states that “in order for Vendor [Baum] to perform its contractual duties to Member [WELLS FARGO], MERS, by corporate resolution, will grant employees of Vendor [Baum] the limited authority to act on behalf of MERS to perform certain duties. Such authority is set forth in the Resolution, which is made a part of this Agreement.” As the Court continues through the MERS mortgage twilight zone, attached to exhibit F is the June 30, 2009-affidavit of MERS’ Secretary, William C. Hultman. Mr. Hultman claims, in ¶ 3, that Steven J. Baum, P.C. is not acting in the instant action as attorney for MERS and, in ¶ 4, Ms. Gazzo in her capacity as an officer of MERS executed the September 10, 2007 subject assignment “to foreclose on a mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is being serviced by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.” Thus, Mr. Hultman perceives that mortgages registered on the MERS system exist in a parallel universe to those recorded with the City Register of the City of New York. While Mr. Hultman waives, in ¶ 9, any conflict that might exist by Steven J. Baum, P.C. in the instant action, neither he nor Mr. Baum address whether MERS, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action, with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved” explained to MERS. Then, attached to exhibit F, there is the June 11, 2008-affidavit of China Brown, Vice President Loan Documentation of WELLS FARGO. This document continues the Court’s trip into “a wondrous land of imagination.” Despite the affidavit’s caption stating that HSBC is the plaintiff, Mr. or Ms. Brown (the notary public’s jurat refers several times to China Brown as “he/she”), states, in ¶ 4, that “Steven J. Baum, P.C. represents us as an attorney of record in this action.” The Court infers that “us” is WELLS FARGO. Moving to the third issue that plaintiff was required to address in the instant motion, compliance with the statutory requirements of CPLR § 3215 (f) with an affidavit of facts executed by someone with authority to execute such an affidavit, plaintiff’s instant motion contains an affidavit of merit, attached as exhibit C, by Kim Miller, “Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. as Attorney in Fact for HSBC,” executed on December 8, 2008, 220 days after my May 2, 2008 decision and order. The affidavit of merit is almost six months late. Again, plaintiff attached a photocopy of the July 19, 2004 “Limited Power of Attorney” from HSBC [exhibit D], which appointed WELLS FARGO as its attorney-in-fact to perform various enumerated services, by executing documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements . . . in connection with Wells Fargo[‘s] . . . responsibilities to service certain mortgage loans . . . held by HSBC . . . as Trustee of various trusts.” Further, the “Limited Power of Attorney” fails to list any of these “certain mortgage loans.” Therefore, the Court is unable to determine if the subject mortgage loan is one of the mortgage loans that WELLS FARGO services for HSBC. The “Limited Power of attorney” gives WELLS FARGO the right to execute foreclosure documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements.” Instead of presenting the Court with the “related servicing agreement” for review, plaintiff’s counsel submits copies of the cover page and redacted pages 102, 104 and 105 of the October 1, 2006 Pooling and Servicing Agreement between WELLS FARGO, as Master Servicer, HSBC, as Trustee, and other entities. This is in direct contravention of the Court’s May 2, 2008-directive to plaintiff HSBC that it provides the Court with the entire pooling and servicing agreement upon renewal of the instant motion. Thomas Westmoreland, Vice President Loan Documentation of HSBC, in ¶ 10 of his attached June 13, 2008-affidavit, also in exhibit F, claims that the snippets of the pooling and servicing agreement provided to the Court are “a copy of the non-proprietary portions of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement that was entered into when the pool of loans that contained the subject mortgage was purchased.” The Court cannot believe that there is any proprietary or trade secret information in a boilerplate pooling and servicing agreement. If plaintiff HSBC utilizes an affidavit of facts by a loan servicer, not an HSBC officer, to secure a judgment on default, pursuant to CPLR § 3215 (f), then the Court needs to examine the entire pooling and servicing agreement, whether proprietary or non-proprietary, to determine if the pooling and servicing agreement grants authority, pursuant to a power of attorney, to the affiant to execute the affidavit of facts.

Further, there is hope that Mr. Westmoreland, unlike Steven J. Baum, Esq., is not in another dimension. Mr. Westmoreland, in ¶ 1 of his affidavit, admits that HSBC is the plaintiff in this action. However, with respect to why plaintiff HSBC purchased the subject nonperforming loan, Mr. Westmoreland admits to a lack of due diligence by plaintiff HSBC. His admissions are straight from the mortgage twilight zone. He states in his affidavit, in ¶’s 4-7 and part of ¶ 10: 4. The secondary mortgage market is, essentially, the buying and selling of “pools” of mortgages. 5. A mortgage pools is the packaging of numerous mortgage loans together so that an investor may purchase a significant number of loans in one transaction. 6. An investigation of each and every loan included in a particular mortgage pool, however, is not conducted, nor is it feasible. 7. Rather, the fact that a particular mortgage pool may include loans that are already in default is an ordinary risk of participating in the secondary market . . . 10. . . . Indeed, the performance of the mortgage pool is the measure of success, not any one individual loan contained therein. [Emphasis added] The Court can only wonder if this journey through the mortgage twilight zone and the dissemination of this decision will result in Mr. Westmoreland’s affidavit used as evidence in future stockholder derivative actions against plaintiff HSBC. It can’t be comforting to investors to know that an officer of a financial behemoth such as plaintiff HSBC admits that “[a]n investigation of each and every loan included in a particular mortgage pool, however, is not conducted, nor is it feasible” and that “the fact that a particular mortgage pool may include loans that are already in default is an ordinary risk of participating in the secondary market.”

Cancelling of notice of pendency

 

The dismissal with prejudice of the instant foreclosure action requires the cancellation of the notice of pendency. CPLR § 6501 provides that the filing of a notice of pendency against a property is to give constructive notice to any purchaser of real property or encumbrancer against real property of an action that “would affect the title to, or the possession, use or enjoyment of real property, except in a summary proceeding brought to recover the possession of real property.” The Court of Appeals, in 5308 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp. (64 NY2d 313, 319 [1984]), commented that “[t]he purpose of the doctrine was to assure that a court retained its ability to effect justice by preserving its power over the property, regardless of whether a purchaser had any notice of the pending suit,” and, at 320, that “the statutory scheme permits a party to effectively retard the alienability of real property without any prior judicial review.” CPLR § 6514 (a) provides for the mandatory cancellation of a notice of pendency by: The Court, upon motion of any person aggrieved and upon such notice as it may require, shall direct any county clerk to cancel a notice of pendency, if service of a summons has not been completed within the time limited by section 6512; or if the action has beensettled, discontinued or abated; or if the time to appeal from a final judgment against the plaintiff has expired; or if enforcement of a final judgment against the plaintiff has not been stayed pursuant to section 551. [emphasis added] The plain meaning of the word “abated,” as used in CPLR § 6514 (a) is the ending of an action. “Abatement” is defined (Black’s Law Dictionary 3 [7th ed 1999]) as “the act of eliminating or nullifying.” “An action which has been abated is dead, and any further enforcement of the cause of action requires the bringing of a new action, provided that a cause of action remains (2A Carmody-Wait 2d § 11.1).” (Nastasi v Natassi, 26 AD3d 32, 40 [2d Dept 2005]). Further, Nastasi at 36, held that the “[c]ancellation of a notice of pendency can be granted in the exercise of the inherent power of the court where its filing fails to comply with CPLR § 6501 (see 5303 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp., supra at 320-321; Rose v Montt Assets, 250 AD2d 451, 451-452 [1d Dept 1998]; Siegel, NY Prac § 336 [4th ed]).” Thus, the dismissal of the instant complaint must result in the mandatory cancellation of plaintiff HSBC’s notice of pendency against the property “in the exercise of the inherent power of the court.”

Conclusion

 

Accordingly, it is ORDERED, that the renewed motion of plaintiff, HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1, for an order of reference, for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is denied with prejudice; and it is further

ORDERED, that the instant action, Index Number 34142/07, is dismissed with prejudice; and it is further

ORDERED that the Notice of Pendency in this action, filed with the Kings County Clerk on September 10, 2007, by plaintiff, HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1, to foreclose a mortgage for real property located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is cancelled.

This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court.

Ask Goldman Sachs to Give it Back! RALLY AT THE TREASURY 6/7/2010! HUFFINGTON POST

WE WANT A REFUND!

Cenk UygurHost of The Young Turks
Posted: May 24, 2010 06:44 AM

Sometimes when you explain to people that some of the most complicated financial transactions in the country were just side bets, they don’t really believe you. They think it’s an oversimplification. We couldn’t have wrecked the global economy because some people made side bets. These are sophisticated bankers with sophisticated financial instruments, so it must be more complicated than that. It isn’t. They bet one another, whoever lost got paid by the American taxpayer.

To be fair, sometimes they had the money to pay off one another without government bailouts, but not often. That’s because they were largely betting with money they never had. AIG is the perfect example. Their executives made hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses from the early wins in these bets, but then stuck the taxpayers with a $182 billion bill when they lost.

A credit default swap is when you bet that a certain asset is going to default. If you’re wrong, then you have to pay a little bit. If you’re right, you get paid a ton. So, AIG collected a lot of little winnings when they bet that mortgage backed securities would not go into default. But then when they did go into default, they lost big.

So, what does all of this have to do with us? Well, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke in their infinite wisdom decided that we should pay AIG’s bets for them. Did they go back and take the money the AIG executives got for their earlier so-called winnings? No, of course not. Did they even inquire into whether these bets were on actual assets that the other parties were on the hook for? Apparently not.

Let me explain that more. If you bought a package of mortgage backed securities and wanted to insure it in case anything went wrong, that’s a fairly normal derivative. That basically works as insurance for your security. So, if we paid off people who actually owned those securities, it still wouldn’t be right in my opinion but it would be a lot more understandable. The argument would be that it would destabilize the economy too much if all of the people holding the mortgages all of sudden lost most of their value.

But what if they didn’t hold the mortgages, they just bet on them? That’s like the difference between bailing out the Dallas Cowboys to help the local Dallas economy versus bailing out bookies who bet too much on the last Cowboys game. The latter is what we did with AIG. We paid off people’s bets for almost no reason.

I explain all of this because it’s very important that you understand that when we paid $62 billion to AIG “counterparties,” we weren’t saving the economy, we were paying off the bookies. The money we gave them didn’t go toward saving one house or one mortgage or even a package of mortgages or even investors who bought the packages of mortgages. It went to paying off people who made side bets on the mortgages (and even sometimes put down bets on a made up collection of mortgages that didn’t even exist in the real world called “synthetic” collateralized debt obligations).

This is insanity. When you understand what really happened, you have one natural reaction – I want my money back. It’s like we paid Donald Trump for a bet he made against Steve Wynn. Why did we do that? I don’t give a damn if The Mirage or Caesar’s Casino won. Why did you pay them with my money?

So, we’re now starting a campaign to get our money back. I’d love to get the whole $62 billion paid out to the AIG counterparties (let alone the whole $182 billion we’ve sunk into AIG all together). But, we’re going to start out nice and modest. We’d like to have Goldman Sachs pay us our $12.9 billion back that they got from AIG.

That’s all taxpayer money. All of it went to Goldman for some silly bet they made with a buffoonish company that never had the money in the first place. As “sophisticated investors” they should have realized that AIG never really had the cash to pay them.

It’s like making a million dollar bet with your deadbeat friend. Do you really expect to get paid when he doesn’t have ten bucks to his name? How sophisticated can you be if you don’t even realize that your counterparties are broke? So, sad day for you, you made a bet with the wrong guy. That’s capitalism, baby. Go home, lick your wounds.

Except as we all know, that’s not how it worked out. Instead the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson decided to give them the money anyway, from the United States Treasury. Paulson had made $700 million dollars earlier when he made the same kind of deals as the head of Goldman before he became our Treasury Secretary. Not much bias there, right?

So, other than this enormous conflict of interest, why target just Goldman Sachs? Many reasons. They were one of the largest beneficiaries of this “backdoor bailout” from AIG. They were the ones who set up many of the securities in the first place. In fact, they sold $23 billion worth of this junk to AIG (they’re lucky we’re not asking for all of that back).They set them to blow and then bet against them. And they said they didn’t need the money away. Great, then we’ll take it back please.

Yes, they actually said they didn’t need the taxpayers to pay them. They said many times on the record that they were “properly hedged” and that they could have gotten paid off by other companies and didn’t need AIG to pay them. Fantastic! Out with it. We’re going to be generous and not charge much interest, so we’ll take a check for $13 billion made to the United States Treasury.

I’m not kidding. We are going to start applying pressure to both Goldman and the Treasury Department to return that money to its rightful owners, the American taxpayer. Of course, we need your help. We want everyone across the political spectrum to put pressure on the Treasury Department to ask for that money back and for Goldman to give it back.

I invite conservatives, libertarians and tea party activists to join us as well. Don’t you want your money back? Weren’t you angry about the bailouts? Don’t you have a sense that the people in Washington and Wall Street are screwing you? Well, this is how they’re doing it. Time to stand up and fight. Tell Goldman not to tread on you.

To show you how nonpartisan this is, the first protest will be aimed at one of the one guys most responsible for this atrocious decision – Tim Geithner. He is our Treasury Secretary and should be fighting for us and not for the bankers. He can fix his original mistake (he was at the New York Fed when they decided to give these backdoor bailouts at a hundred cents on the dollar when no one thought they were worth anywhere near that much) and get our money back from Goldman.

I have a question for the tea party participants, have you ever wondered why you’ve never protested the one guy in the Obama administration most responsible for the bailouts and the economy? That’s the Treasury Secretary. And the reason you’ve never protested him is because the corporate front groups who organize your protests love Geithner and want to look out for him. Isn’t it time you corrected your mistake, too?

Come join us. Let’s do a real protest of the people who caused this mess in the first place. And let’s get our damn money back.

Join us on Monday, June 7th at noon in front of the Treasury building to demand our $13 billion back from Goldman Sachs. First job is to get Geithner to recognize that he should have never given that particular money to that particular bank for that particular transaction. Or to come out and justify his actions. Let him step out, greet us and tell us why it was such a smart idea to pay off AIG’s side bets with Goldman. I’ll be looking forward to that.

And I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at the protest, no matter what your politics are. You can RSVP by going to the Facebook page for this event. See you there.

Join the Protest Here

UPDATE: Progressive Change Campaign Committee has joined our effort now and we are doing a joint petition to get our money back. Please sign the petition here so your voice can be heard on this even if you can’t make it out to the DC protest.

Everyone in the country should be able to agree to this. I was just on the Dylan Ratigan program on MSNBC and even the conservative on the panel agreed. Sign the petition and help get our money back.

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks

SEC KNEW ABOUT SUBPRIME ACCOUNTING FRAUD A DECADE AGO

by Elizabeth MacDonald FoxBusiness

The Securities and Exchange  Commission is missing a bigger fraud while it chases the banks. Even though it knew about this massive, plain old fashioned accounting fraud back in 1998.
Instead, the market cops are probing simpler disclosure cases that could charge bank and Wall Street with not telling investors about their conflicts of interest in selling securities they knew were damaged while making bets against those same securities behind the scenes, via credit default swaps.
Those probes have gotten headlines, but there aren’t too many signs that this will lead to anything close to massive settlements or fines.

For instance, the SEC doesn’t appear to be investigating how banks frontloaded their profits via channel stuffing — securitizing loans and shoving paper securitizations onto investors, while booking those revenues immediately, even though the mortgage payments underlying those paper daisy chains were coming in the door years, even decades, later. Those moves helped lead to $2.4 trillion in writedowns worldwide.
The agency said it  believed banks were committing subprime securitization accounting frauds back in 1998 and claimed to be ‘probing’ them.
I had written about these SEC probes into potential frauds while covering corporate accounting abuses at The Wall Street Journal. The rules essentially let banks frontload into their revenue the sale of subprime mortgages or other loans that they then packaged and sold off as securities, even though the payments on those underlying loans were coming in the door over the next seven, 10, 20, or 30 years.
Estimating those revenues based on the value of future mortgage payments involved plenty of guesswork.

Securitization: Free Market Became a Free For All
The total amount of overall mortgage-backed securities generated by Wall Street virtually tripled between 1996 and 2007, to $7.3 trillion. Subprime mortgage securitizations increased from 54% in 2001, to 75% in 2006. Back in 1998, the SEC had warned a dozen top accounting firms that they must do a  better job policing how subprime lenders book profits from loans that are repackaged as securities and sold on the secondary market. The SEC “is becoming increasingly concerned” over the way lenders use what are called “gain on sale” accounting rules when they securitize these loans, Jane B. Adams, the SEC’s deputy chief accountant, said in a letter sent to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the nation’s chief accounting rule makers.
At that time, subprime lenders had come under fire from consumer groups and Congress, who said banks were using aggressive accounting to frontload profits from securitizing subprime loans. Subprime auto lender Mercury Finance collapsed after a spectacular accounting fraud and shareholder suits, New Century Financial was tanking as well for the same reason.

SEC Knew About Subprime Fraud More than a Decade Ago
The SEC more than a decade ago believed that subprime lenders were abusing the accounting rules.
When lenders repackage consumer loans as asset-backed securities, they must book the fair value of profits or losses from the deals. But regulators said lenders were overvaluing the loan assets they kept on their books in order to inflate current profits. Others delayed booking assets in order to increase future earnings. Lenders were also using poor default and prepayment rate assumptions to overestimate the fair value of their securitizations.
Counting future revenue was perfectly legal under too lax rules.
But without it many lenders that are in an objective sense doing quite well would look as if they were headed for bankruptcy.
At that time, the SEC’s eyebrows were raised when Dan Phillips, chief executive officer of FirstPlus Financial Group, a Dallas subprime home equity lenders, had said the poor accounting actually levitated profits at lenders.
“The reality is that companies like us wouldn’t be here without gain on sale,” he said, adding, “a lot of people abuse it.”
But this much larger accounting trick, one that has exacerbated the ties that blind between company and auditor, is more difficult to nail down because it involves wading through a lot of math, a calculus that Wall Street stretched it until it snapped.

Impenetrably Absurd Accounting
These were the most idiotic accounting rules known to man, rules manufactured by a quiescent Financial Accounting Standards Board [FASB] that let bank executives make up profits out of thin air.
It resulted in a folie à deux between Wall Street and complicit accounting firms that swallowed whole guesstimates pulled out of the atmosphere.
Their accounting gamesmanship set alight the most massive off-balance sheet bubble of all, a rule that helped tear the stock market off its moorings.
The rules helped five Wall Street firms – Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch – earn an estimated $312 billion based on fictitious profits during the bubble years.

Who Used the Rule?
Banks and investment firms including Citigroup, Bank of America and Merrill all used this “legit” rule.
Countrywide Financial made widespread use of this accounting chicanery (see below). So did Washington Mutual. So did IndyMac Bancorp. So did FirstPlus Financial Group, and as noted Mercury Finance Co. and New Century Financial Corp.
Brought to the cliff’s edge, these banks were either bailed out, taken over or went through bankruptcies.
Many banks sold those securitized loans to Enron-style off-balance sheet trusts, otherwise called “structured investment vehicles” (SIVs), again booking profits immediately (Citigroup invented the SIV in 1988).
So, presto-change-o, banks got to dump loans off their books, making their leverage ratios look a whole lot nicer, so in turn they could borrow more.
At the same time, the banks got to record immediate profits, even though those no-income, no-doc loans supporting those paper securities and paper gains were bellyflopping right and left.
The writedowns were then buried in obscure line items called “impairment charges,” and were then masked by new profits from issuing new loans or by refinancings.

Rulemakers Fight Back
The FASB has been fighting to restrict this and other types of accounting games, but the banks have been battling back with an army of lobbyists.
The FASB, which sets the rules for publicly traded companies, is still trying to hang tough and is trying to force all sorts of off-balance sheet borrowings back onto bank balance sheets.
But these “gain on sale” rules, along with the “fair value” or what are called “marked to market” rules, have either been watered down or have enough loopholes in them, escape hatches that were written into the rules by the accountants themselves, so that auditors can make a clean get away.
As the market turned down, banks got the FASB to back down on mark-to-market accounting, which had forced them to more immediately value these assets and take quarterly profit hits if those assets soured – even though they were booking immediate profits from this “gain on sale” rule on the way up.
Also, the FASB has clung fast to the Puritanism of their rulemaking by arguing a sale is a sale is a sale, so companies can immediately book the entire value of a sale of a loan turned into a bond, even though the cash from the underlying mortgage has yet to come in the door.

Old-Fashioned ‘Channel Stuffing’
This sanctioned “gain on sale” accounting is really old-fashioned “channel stuffing.”
The move lets companies pad their revenue and profit numbers by stuffing lots of goods and inventory (mortgages and subprime securities) into the system without actually getting the money in the door, and booking those channel-stuffed goods as actual sales in order to cook ever higher their earnings.
Sort of like what Sunbeam did with its barbecue grills in the ’90s.

Intergalactic Bank Justice League
Cleaning up the accounting rules is an easier fix instead of a new, belabored, top-heavy “Systemic Risk Council” of the heads of federal financial regulatory agencies, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn) envisions in financial regulatory reform.
An intergalactic Marvel Justice League of bank regulators can do nothing in the face of chicanery allowed in the rules.

Planes on a Tarmac
What happened was, banks and investment firms like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch who couldn’t sell these subprime bonds, or “collateralized debt obligations,” as well as other loan assets into these SIVs got caught out when the markets turned, stuck with this junk on their balance sheets like planes on a tarmac in a blizzard.
Bank of America saw its fourth-quarter 2007 profits plunge 95% largely due to SIV investments. SunTrust Banks’ earnings were nearly wiped out, a 98% drop in the same quarter, because of its SIVs.
Great Britain’s Northern Rock ran into huge problems in 2007 stemming from SIVs, and was later nationalized by the British government in February 2008.
Even the mortgage lending arm of tax preparer H&R Block used the move. Block sold its loans to off-balance-sheet vehicles so it could book gains about a month earlier than it otherwise would. Weee!
The company had $75 million of these items on its books at the end of its fiscal 2003 year. All totally within the rules.

Leverage Culture
The rampant fakery helped fuel a leverage culture that got a lot of homes put in hock.
Banks, for instance, started advertising home equity loans as “equity access,” or ways to “Live Richly” or as Fleet Bank once touted, “The smartest place to borrow? Your place.”
In fact, Washington Mutual and IndyMac got so excited by the gain on sale rules, they went so far as to count in profits futuristic gains even if they had only an “interest rate” commitment from a borrower, and not a final mortgage loan.
Talk about counting chickens before they hatch.

Closer Look at Wamu
Look at Wamu’s profits in just one year during the runup to the bubble. Such gains more than tripled in 2001 at Wamu, to just shy of $1 billion, or 22% of its pretax earnings before extraordinary items, up from $262 million, or 9%, in 2000.
But in 2001, Washington Mutual took $1.7 billion in charges, $1.1 billion of it in the final, fourth quarter, to reflect bleaker prospects for the revenue stream of all those servicing rights.
It papered over the hit with a nearly identical $1.8 billion gain on securitizations and portfolio sales.

Closer Look at Countrywide
The accounting fakery let Countrywide Financial Corp., the mortgage issuer now owned by Bank of America, triple its profit in 2003 to $2.4 billion on $8.5 billion in revenue.
At the height of the bubble, Countrywide booked $6.1 billion in gains from the sale of loans and securities. But this wasn’t cold, hard cash. No, this was potential future profits from servicing mortgage portfolios, meaning collecting monthly payments and late penalties.

Moooove Over SLACKERS!! NY AG CUOMO probing 8 banks over securities

AP Source: NY AG probing 8 banks over securities

NEW YORK — The New York attorney general has launched an investigation into eight banks to determine whether they misled ratings agencies about mortgage securities, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

finance-20100513-US.Wall.Street.InvestigationAttorney General Andrew Cuomo is trying to figure out if banks provided the agencies with false information in order to get better ratings on the risky securities, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been made public.

Cuomo’s office is investigating Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and Merrill Lynch, which is now part of Bank of America Corp.

Representatives from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Credit Agricole declined to comment. Others were not immediately available comment.

During the housing boom, Wall Street banks often packaged pools of risky subprime mortgages together. The securities were then typically given top-notch ratings and investors purchased them, in part, because of their high ratings.

The ratings, given out by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, are used as a guide for investors to judge how risky an investment might be.

As the housing market collapsed and more customers fell behind on repaying their mortgages, the securities began to fail.

The securities have been widely blamed for exacerbating the credit crisis and costing investors and the banks themselves billions of dollars in losses. The ratings agencies have come under fire for having given such high ratings to securities that soured.

The attorney general’s probe comes as federal regulators are investigating whether some of the banks misled investors when marketing and selling the securities and other investments that were tied to mortgages.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraud over its packaging of mortgage securities. Goldman is facing a separate criminal investigation into the same securities. Goldman has denied the charges and plans to defend itself.

Earlier this week it was reported that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Morgan Stanley misled investors about its role in a pair of $200 million derivatives whose performance was tied to mortgage-backed securities.

The increased scrutiny over how banks managed, packaged and portrayed mortgage securities and derivatives comes as Congress discusses a major overhaul of financial regulations. Politicians have said an overhaul would add more transparency to investments and trading.

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