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.

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Mandelman on LPS, DJSP Ent. & Altisource – Nina Easton’s HOT Stocks for Homeowners Losing Homes

Via: Mandelman Matters

(Only in America… Nina Easton.  More on that in a moment.)

The New York Post is reporting that a new gold rush is sweeping the country and it’s all about… are you ready for this… “people looking to get fat off of the $4 billion home foreclosure industry”.

Apparently, in the last two years four companies have either gone public or are about to go public, and each is looking to raise the cash they need to become a “national powerhouse” in the business of providing “streamlined and low-cost methods” for kicking people out of their homes.

According to the Post, “there are currently 6 million homeowners 60 days or more delinquent on their mortgage,” which makes these companies very attractive to investors.

These companies, DJSP Enterprises, whose revenues have increased by 31% over the last year, Altisource Portfolio Solutions, with its 182 percent increase in profits last year, and of course, Lender Processing Services, a company with $2.4 billion in revenue up 29 percent last year — all offer technology linking lenders with law firms in order to reduce the cost and streamline the process of foreclosing on homes and evicting their ex-owners.

Oh, and let’s not forget Prommis Solutions, which turned a $7.9 million profit in 2009 and has filed to go public.

Now, Lender Processing Services is the parent company of DocX, a company that one of the companies under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s office for being in the business of creating fraudulent documents used in foreclosure proceedings when the servicer doesn’t have any paperwork showing that the trust actually holds the mortgage.

But, LPS doesn’t seem terribly concerned about that investigation, or any of the others that threaten to expose this company for wrongdoing.  They say it’s all just a mix-up… funny story, that sort of thing.  Here’s the company’s CEO on May 20th:

LPS’ CEO Jeffrey Carbiener said “our earnings are quality earnings. They translate into cash flow.  LPS generated $349 million in cash last year.”

LPS provides all levels of mortgage default services services for when a loan goes bad.  “Because we have a strong business model, we’re able to weather economic challenges,” Carbiener said.  LPS’s growth is continuing into 2010, with first-quarter revenue up 11.8 percent and adjusted earnings up 26.5 percent.

“We’ve had good success and we expect that success to continue into the future,” Carbiener said.

These types of companies get fees from the lenders on each property, and from the law firms that file the foreclosure actions. So, their prospectuses warn investors:

“A turnaround in the housing market or additional mortgage-modification plans from Washington may negatively impact our profits.”

Well, there’s not much to worry about in either of those regards, at this point anyway.  But, I suppose there is always the risk that there could be an outbreak of competence in Washington.  Still… I’d probably go long at this point.

As long as our economy continues to sink into an abyss, any of these companies is poised to become the next Microsoft, but God forbid our elected representatives actually figure something out and we start to see stabilization in the housing market, leading to a real recovery, well… better sell these stocks short and fast, ‘cause the better things get the worse they’ll do.

The whole thing got me to thinking… this must be awfully confusing to John Paulsen and the guys at Goldman.  They want to short the housing market in every possible way, but to do that in this case, they have to go long.  I’ll bet some traders have become dizzy and maybe even passed out just thinking about that.

A Goldman Trader: “What do I do again?  I need 3.5 million shares short… no, long… no, short… no, damnit!”

So, if you’re a homeowner at risk of losing your home to foreclosure, or even if you’re not looking at foreclosure, but just can’t stand the thought of watching another hundred grand in equity go up in smoke, I have some important investment advice for 2010 and 2011 that you’ll want to hear.

Why not consider strategically defaulting on your underwater mortgage in order to start dollar cost averaging into this brand new and exciting offering:

Nina Easton’s

Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund

To learn more about Nina’s role in the foreclosure crisis, click where her name appears in orange above.

The fund’s objective is to acquire significant positions in bonds issued by growth companies that are positioned to capitalize on the emerging and exciting multi-billion dollar foreclosure industry.  The fund’s investment strategy focuses on:

  • Technologies that enable faster, high-quality document forgeries.
  • Property preservation companies that throw people out first time, every time.
  • Title insurance companies that don’t care who owns the property.
  • Lock-Box and REO-FOR-SALE sign manufacturers.
  • Home auction companies.
  • Firms that lobby on behalf of the banking industry.
  • And, of course, the makers of Xanax and Ativan.

People, this is a once in a lifetime investment opportunity to place a bet on our growing foreclosure industry, supported by the total and ongoing incompetence of our government!  And that’s not all…

In order to hedge your position in Nina’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, or for those of you who think the administration and other branches government may at some point actually start getting something right, I’m also working on getting the Obama Administration to agree to be a counterparty in credit default swaps related to certificate holders in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund.

Nothing is definite at this point, but I think it’s important that dumb money be able to short our multi-billion dollar foreclosure industry, so for those that think the foreclosure crisis will be ending soon, stand by because my soon to be available Obama Competence Credit Default Swaps should be available soon.  That’s right, you can sell the foreclosure industry short when you invest in Obama Competence Credit Default Swaps.

Plenty of Upside Remaining…

Some have said…

“But Nina… we’ve already lost 7 million homes to foreclosure.  Haven’t I already missed out on my chance to profit from this exciting opportunity?”

No, no… silly human… there’s plenty of upside remaining in the foreclosure market.  Housing prices are still in a free fall, foreclosures are still coming in at over 300,000 a month, and we’re on the fifteenth straight month at those levels.

There are 6 million people more than 60 days delinquent on their mortgages right now, and Goldman Sachs forecasts 14 million more foreclosures in the next five years!  And don’t forget… the good news is that the ALT-A and Option ARM loans that haven’t even started adjusting yet!

Unemployment?  Fuggetaboutit!  I mean, no one is even trying to fix that anymore!  We’ve got more people unemployed for more than 30 weeks than since before I was born, and at this point our only strategy is to report made up numbers generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s all downhill from here!

So, worry not.  It’s not at all too late for you to get involved and make your fortune in the fast-paced and exciting foreclosure industry, because there’s plenty of upside left in the American foreclosure market.  Let’s see the Chinese beat us at this!  No chance… they won’t even try.

And the people trying to stop this foreclosure thing… please.  Here’s what Nina Easton wrote in her blog about a demonstration near her home:

Now this event would accurately be called a “protest”; if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be ‘mob.’

You tell ‘em Nina!

Others ask…

“Nina, I heard HAMP was doing better at modifying loans lately.  Is this something I should be concerned about?”

I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned, and here’s why…

First of all, you’d have to believe that the government’s program will actually continue to show improvement, and at this point, there’s very little evidence upon which to base that sort of assumption.

As of right now, there have been about the same number of homeowners kicked out of HAMP as have received permanent modifications, and don’t forget there are still more than 600,000 homeowners stuck in the purgatory that the government refers to as a “trial modification,” so look for at least a few hundred thousand more foreclosures there, for sure!

It really is an exciting time to be investing in the foreclosure industry in this country, and there’s no better way than through Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund.

Now, it is true that HAMP, as of June 1st, will start requiring homeowners to verify their incomes prior to being placed into a trial modification, and the early indications are that a much higher percentage of homeowners will ultimately be granted permanent modifications in future months as a result of this new requirement.

Big deal… The numbers of homeowners entering the program declined dramatically as soon as the servicers started asking for proof of income in advance of being granted a trial modification, so even if this does make HAMP incrementally better, it won’t come close to touching the more than 300,000 new foreclosures occurring each month in this country!  How could you ask for better fundamentals than that?

And the best part is… you can still rely on the fact that HAMP is “VOLUNTARY” as far as the banks and servicers are concerned!

So, relax… you don’t think the banks and servicers are going to do anything to stop foreclosures, do you?  Of course not!  And it’s still… ALL UP TO THEM!

If there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s that the banks and servicers will continue to fuel the foreclosure industry’s growth, so with the government allowing the banks total discretion on all foreclosure decisions, investing in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund is a safe bet and a sure winner.  It’s like we’ve got Colonel Sanders guarding the chickens, if you know what I mean.

Barring some totally unforeseen change in the administration, like Paul Volker being taken seriously, Bernanke allowing us to audit the Fed, Tim Geithner turning on his banking buddies on Wall Street, or Liz Warren being given teeth, there’s no way Obama’s Making Home Affordable program is going to address the millions more homes that will be lost as a result of the foreclosure crisis.

And come on… I understand that past performance is no assurance of future results, but Volker taken seriously?  Geithner turning on Wall Street?  Liz Warren being given teeth?  Bernanke letting anyone inside the Fed?  HAHAHAHAHA… I know… anything can happen, but come on… it’s like thinking that maybe the banksters are going to wake up one morning afraid of Obama.  Come on… you’re killing me… not in this lifetime, baby!

No, folks… the good news for our emerging foreclosure industry, and for Nina Easton’s new Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, is that our government has failed at every single turn in trying to stem the tide of foreclosures in this country, and there’s no reason to believe they’re going to be any more competent in the future!

Some say that America has lost its leadership position in the world, but I don’t believe that for a second, and I think we’re already proving it with our clear dominance in the foreclosure industry.  There’s no other country on the globe that has anywhere near as vibrant a foreclosure industry as we do here in the good old U.S.A.

We’re the dominant world leader in foreclosure production, and with nothing in place to stimulate economic growth, nothing even on the drawing board to reverse the trends in unemployment, and all of our money and then some going to prop up failed financial institutions that remain insolvent, how can anyone not think that we will maintain our leadership position as the foreclosure capital of the free world?

And don’t worry about all these pesky demonstrations by homeowners.  Like Nina wrote in her blog last week about the unwashed masses that were demonstrating in front of her house, just because her neighbor works for some bank:

Waving signs denouncing bank ‘greed,’ hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses,” childishly putting “greed” in quotes as if referring to unicorns, hobbits, or some other imaginary entity.

Ooooh, snap!  We love you Nina!

So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to go long on the promise of our government’s ongoing incompetence by investing in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund today!

Disclaimer: Past incompetence is no assurance of continued ineptitude, or future ineffectiveness.

Don’t worry about not having any money left in your IRA or 401(k), many of our investors simply stop making mortgage payments and then invest those amounts in the fund each month.  We even offer direct deposit, so you can just call your bank where your mortgage payments are automatically going now, and have them redirected toNina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund!

It’s that simple!  Why not start rooting for more foreclosures today?

Isn’t it time to get on the right side of this foreclosure crisis thing, by investing on the winning side!  Sure you may lose a house or two, but so what?  You’re so far underwater that the only difference between you and a renter is that a renter has more rights and can’t be evicted as quickly.

Besides with the money you’ll make investing in my new Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, soon you’ll not only be able to buy the home across the street for half the price, you’ll be able to pay  cash!

For more information, call:

1-800-4-EMPTY-HOMES

Or send email to:

invest@throwthemouttoday.com

Operators are standing by to take your call.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:

The Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund is not registered with FINRA or the SIPC, but so what, neither are trillions in derivatives.

Although current personnel working for the administration can be counted on as entirely lacking in ability or skill, theEmpty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund makes no assurances pertaining to the stupidity or utter uselessness of those who may work for the administration in the future.

In the event of an outbreak of competence in Washington D.C. investors should recognize that they could lose their investment in the Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, although at this point, the FUND’s management believes that statistically this risk falls somewhere between the risk of shark attack in Indiana, and being killed by falling airplane parts while shopping at an indoor mall.

Nina Easton’s

Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund

Your Ticket to Winning Our Nation’s Race to the Bottom

Fictional Securities Not Offered by Mandelman Matters.  This, of course, was a joke.  Except for the stuff at the top about the companies like Lender Processing Services… that stuff is real, and should make you want to throw up.  Oh, and the stuff about Nina Easton was real too, and I can’t decide whether to ignore her, or write something about her every single day for the rest of my life.

BANK OF AMERICA channels BRITNEY SPEARS “OOPS I DID IT AGAIN”: Foreclosing AGAIN on a MORTGAGE FREE HOME!

ARE YOU NEXT?

"Oops I did it Again"

Tuolumne Woman Owns Home Outright

POSTED: 3:58 pm PDT May 26, 2010
UPDATED: 5:53 pm PDT May 26, 2010

TUOLUMNE, Calif. — Nancy Willmes paid cash for her Tuolumne home in 2001. So she was quite surprised when Bank of America send her a notice of default on the property in February.

“I honestly felt like Bank of America was trying to steal my property,” Willmes said.

She contacted Bank of America to try to find out why the bank believed it could foreclose on property she had purchased outright.

Willmes has chain-of-ownership records, which show Bank of America had sold the property to Fannie Mae years earlier. Fannie Mae foreclosed on the previous owner, and Willmes purchased the property with cash from Fannie Mae.

But Willmes said Bank of America did not care about the documentation.

The bank proceeded with the foreclosure, placing ads in the local paper and nailing a foreclosure notice to her door.

“I called the title company, the title company called B of A, and they refused to rescind it,” Willmes said.
Fearful she would lose her home to the bank, Willmes called KCRA Call 3, and a Call 3 volunteer contacted Bank of America.

Willmes said that’s when Bank of America began returning her phone calls.

The bank rescinded the notice of trustee sale, stopping the foreclosure.

In a statement to KCRA 3, Bank of America said the problem was a system error. It said it updated its records and canceled the sale.

“This is my whole life. This is my future,” Willmes said. “I’ve got to thank you guys for basically giving me back my home. That is a big relief.”

Copyright 2010 by KCRA.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

FORECLOSURE…THE NEW “IT” THING? OWNERS STOP PAYING THE MORTGAGE…FANTASTIC!

Can you imagine if everyone just stopped paying that thing called mortgage but kept up with homeowners/condo associations (because these can foreclose faster than you can blink) Oh what a wonderful world!

This article really does not portray the majority. Some don’t have a job period! If you can… get a great attorney, a loan audit and the lender to the table!

Owners Stop Paying Mortgage … and Stop Fretting About It

Chip Litherland for The New York Times Wendy Pemberton, a barber in Florida, with a customer, Howard Cook. She stopped paying her mortgage two years ago.

By DAVID STREITFELD NYTIMES
Published: May 31, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life — something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.

Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.

Chip Litherland for The New York Times Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras stopped paying the mortgage on their house in St. Petersburg, Fla., last summer.

“Instead of the house dragging us down, it’s become a life raft,” said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying themortgage on their house here last summer. “It’s really been a blessing.”

A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame. They are fashioning a sort of homemade mortgage modification, one that brings their payments all the way down to zero. They use the money they save to get back on their feet or just get by.

This type of modification does not beg for a lender’s permission but is delivered as an ultimatum: Force me out if you can. Any moral qualms are overshadowed by a conviction that the banks created the crisis by snookering homeowners with loans that got them in over their heads.

“I tried to explain my situation to the lender, but they wouldn’t help,” said Mr. Pemberton’s mother, Wendy Pemberton, herself in foreclosure on a small house a few blocks away from her son’s. She stopped paying her mortgage two years ago after a bout with lung cancer. “They’re all crooks.”

Foreclosure procedures have been initiated against 1.7 million of the nation’s households. The pace of resolving these problem loans is slow and getting slower because of legal challenges, foreclosure moratoriums, government pressure to offer modifications and the inability of the lenders to cope with so many souring mortgages.

The average borrower in foreclosure has been delinquent for 438 days before actually being evicted, up from 251 days in January 2008, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

While there are no firm figures on how many households are following the Pemberton-Reboyras path of passive resistance, real estate agents and other experts say the number of overextended borrowers taking the “free rent” approach is on the rise.

There is no question, though, that for some borrowers in default, foreclosure is only a theoretical threat for a long time.

More than 650,000 households had not paid in 18 months, LPS calculated earlier this year. With 19 percent of those homes, the lender had not even begun to take action to repossess the property — double the rate of a year earlier.

In some states, including California and Texas, lenders can pursue foreclosures outside of the courts. With the lender in control, the pace can be brisk. But in Florida, New York and 19 other states, judicial foreclosure is the rule, which slows the process substantially.

In Pinellas and Pasco counties, which include St. Petersburg and the suburbs to the north, there are 34,000 open foreclosure cases, said J. Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit. Ten years ago, the average was about 4,000. “The volume is killing us,” Judge McGrady said.

Mr. Pemberton and Ms. Reboyras decided to stop paying because their business, which restores attics that have been invaded by pests, was on the verge of failing. Scrambling to get by, their credit already shot, they had little to lose.

“We could pay the mortgage company way more than the house is worth and starve to death,” said Mr. Pemberton, 43. “Or we could pay ourselves so our business could sustain us and people who work for us over a long period of time. It may sound very horrible, but it comes down to a self-preservation thing.”

They used the $1,837 a month that they were not paying their lender to publicize A Plus Restorations, first with print ads, then local television. Word apparently got around, because the business is recovering.

The couple owe $280,000 on the house, where they live with Ms. Reboyras’s two daughters, their two dogs and a very round pet raccoon named Roxanne. The house is worth less than half that amount — which they say would be their starting point in future negotiations with their lender.

“If they took the house from us, that’s all they would end up getting for it anyway,” said Ms. Reboyras, 46.

One reason the house is worth so much less than the debt is because of the real estate crash. But the couple also refinanced at the height of the market, taking out cash to buy a truck they used as a contest prize for their hired animal trappers.

Chip Litherland for The New York Times Mark P. Stopa is a lawyer who says he has 350 clients in foreclosure, each paying him $1,500 a year in fees.

It was a stupid move by their lender, according to Mr. Pemberton. “They went outside their own guidelines on debt to income,” he said. “And when they did, they put themselves in jeopardy.”

His mother, Wendy Pemberton, who has been cutting hair at the same barber shop for 30 years, has been in default since spring 2008. Mrs. Pemberton, 68, refinanced several times during the boom but says she benefited only once, when she got enough money for a new roof. The other times, she said, unscrupulous salesmen promised her lower rates but simply charged her high fees.

Even without the burden of paying $938 a month for her decaying house, Mrs. Pemberton is having a tough time. Most of her customers are senior citizens who pay only $8 for a cut, and they are spacing out their visits.

“The longer I’m in foreclosure, the better,” she said.

In Florida, the average property spends 518 days in foreclosure, second only to New York’s 561 days. Defense attorneys stress they can keep this number high.

Both generations of Pembertons have hired a local lawyer, Mark P. Stopa. He sends out letters — 1,700 in a recent week — to Floridians who have had a foreclosure suit filed against them by a lender.

Even if you have “no defenses,” the form letter says, “you may be able to keep living in your home for weeks, months or even years without paying your mortgage.”

About 10 new clients a week sign up, according to Mr. Stopa, who says he now has 350 clients in foreclosure, each of whom pays $1,500 a year for a maximum of six hours of attorney time. “I just do as much as needs to be done to force the bank to prove its case,” Mr. Stopa said.

Many mortgages were sold by the original lender, a circumstance that homeowners’ lawyers try to exploit by asking them to prove they own the loan. In Mrs. Pemberton’s case, Mr. Stopa filed a motion to dismiss on March 17, 2009, and the case has not moved since then. He filed a similar motion in her son’s case last December.

From the lenders’ standpoint, people who stay in their homes without paying the mortgage or actively trying to work out some other solution, like selling it, are “milking the process,” said Kyle Lundstedt, managing director of Lender Processing Service’s analytics group. LPS provides technology, services and data to the mortgage industry.  DinSFLA: WHAT AN IDIOTIC THING TO SAY! Who is exactly milking what??

These “free riders” are “the unintended and unfortunate consequence” of lenders struggling to work out a solution, Mr. Lundstedt said. “These people are playing a dangerous game. There are processes in many states to go after folks who have substantial assets postforeclosure.” DinSFLA: I invite you Mr. Lundstedt to look over this blog and see your “Free Riders”. SIR!

But for borrowers like Jim Tsiogas, the benefits of not paying now outweigh any worries about the future.

“I stopped paying in August 2008,” said Mr. Tsiogas, who is in foreclosure on his house and two rental properties. “I told the lady at the bank, ‘I can’t afford $2,500. I can only afford $1,300.’ ”

Mr. Tsiogas, who lives on the coast south of St. Petersburg, blames his lenders for being unwilling to help when the crash began and his properties needed shoring up.

Their attitude seems to have changed since he went into foreclosure. Now their letters say things like “we’re willing to work with you.” But Mr. Tsiogas feels little urge to respond.

“I need another year,” he said, “and I’m going to be pretty comfortable.”

One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work! MERS/CITIMORTGAGE PreLIMINARY INJUNCTION Dalton V. CitiMortgage Reno, Nevada No. 3:09-CV-534-RCJ (VPC) 2009

“One Size DOES NOT FIT ALL”

This is a case where Plaintiff’s counsel aggressively sought to have all foreclosures stopped due to no standing. He states “Thats why the MERS system tried to be a nationwide system”.

“One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work”

Tracking Loans Through a Firm That Holds Millions: MERS

Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times: Darlene and Robert Blendheim of Seattle are struggling to keep their home after their subprime lender went out of business.

By MIKE McINTIRE NYTimes
Published: April 23, 2009

Judge Walt Logan had seen enough. As a county judge in Florida, he had 28 cases pending in which an entity called MERS wanted to foreclose on homeowners even though it had never lent them any money.

Into the Mortgage NetherworldGraphicInto the Mortgage Netherworld

MERS, a tiny data-management company, claimed the right to foreclose, but would not explain how it came to possess the mortgage notes originally issued by banks. Judge Logan summoned a MERS lawyer to the Pinellas County courthouse and insisted that that fundamental question be answered before he permitted the drastic step of seizing someone’s home.

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times R. K. Arnold, MERS president, said the company helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on the industry.

“You don’t think that’s reasonable?” the judge asked.

“I don’t,” the lawyer replied. “And in fact, not only do I think it’s not reasonable, often that’s going to be impossible.”

Judge Logan had entered the murky realm of MERS. Although the average person has never heard of it, MERS — short for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems — holds 60 million mortgages on American homes, through a legal maneuver that has saved banks more than $1 billion over the last decade but made life maddeningly difficult for some troubled homeowners.

Created by lenders seeking to save millions of dollars on paperwork and public recording fees every time a loan changes hands, MERS is a confidential computer registry for trading mortgage loans. From an office in the Washington suburbs, it played an integral, if unsung, role in the proliferation of mortgage-backed securities that fueled the housing boom. But with the collapse of the housing market, the name of MERS has been popping up on foreclosure notices and on court dockets across the country, raising many questions about the way this controversial but legal process obscures the tortuous paths of mortgage ownership.

If MERS began as a convenience, it has, in effect, become a corporate cloak: no matter how many times a mortgage is bundled, sliced up or resold, the public record often begins and ends with MERS. In the last few years, banks have initiated tens of thousands of foreclosures in the name of MERS — about 13,000 in the New York region alone since 2005 — confounding homeowners seeking relief directly from lenders and judges trying to help borrowers untangle loan ownership. What is more, the way MERS obscures loan ownership makes it difficult for communities to identify predatory lenders whose practices led to the high foreclosure rates that have blighted some neighborhoods.

In Brooklyn, an elderly homeowner pursuing fraud claims had to go to court to learn the identity of the bank holding his mortgage note, which was concealed in the MERS system. In distressed neighborhoods of Atlanta, where MERS appeared as the most frequent filer of foreclosures, advocates wanting to engage lenders “face a challenge even finding someone with whom to begin the conversation,” according to a report by NeighborWorks America, a community development group.

To a number of critics, MERS has served to cushion banks from the fallout of their reckless lending practices.

“I’m convinced that part of the scheme here is to exhaust the resources of consumers and their advocates,” said Marie McDonnell, a mortgage analyst in Orleans, Mass., who is a consultant for lawyers suing lenders. “This system removes transparency over what’s happening to these mortgage obligations and sows confusion, which can only benefit the banks.”

A recent visitor to the MERS offices in Reston, Va., found the receptionist answering a telephone call from a befuddled borrower: “I’m sorry, ma’am, we can’t help you with your loan.” MERS officials say they frequently get such calls, and they offer a phone line and Web page where homeowners can look up the actual servicer of their mortgage.

In an interview, the president of MERS, R. K. Arnold, said that his company had benefited not only banks, but also millions of borrowers who could not have obtained loans without the money-saving efficiencies it brought to the mortgage trade. He said that far from posing a hurdle for homeowners, MERS had helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on a sprawling industry where, in the past, lenders might have gone out of business and left no contact information for borrowers seeking assistance.

“We’re not this big bad animal,” Mr. Arnold said. “This crisis that we’ve had in the mortgage business would have been a lot worse without MERS.”

About 3,000 financial services firms pay annual fees for access to MERS, which has 44 employees and is owned by two dozen of the nation’s largest lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. It was the brainchild of the Mortgage Bankers Association, along with Fannie MaeFreddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, the mortgage finance giants, who produced a white paper in 1993 on the need to modernize the trading of mortgages.

At the time, the secondary market was gaining momentum, and Wall Street banks and institutional investors were making millions of dollars from the creative bundling and reselling of loans. But unlike common stocks, whose ownership has traditionally been hidden, mortgage-backed securities are based on loans whose details were long available in public land records kept by county clerks, who collect fees for each filing. The “tyranny of these forms,” the white paper said, was costing the industry $164 million a year.

“Before MERS,” said John A. Courson, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, “the problem was that every time those documents or a file changed hands, you had to file a paper assignment, and that becomes terribly debilitating.”

Although several courts have raised questions over the years about the secrecy afforded mortgage owners by MERS, the legality has ultimately been upheld. The issue has surfaced again because so many homeowners facing foreclosure are dealing with MERS.

Advocates for borrowers complain that the system’s secrecy makes it impossible to seek help from the unidentified investors who own their loans. Avi Shenkar, whose company, the GMA Modification Corporation in North Miami Beach, Fla., helps homeowners renegotiate mortgages, said loan servicers frequently argued that “investor guidelines” prevented them from modifying loan terms.

“But when you ask what those guidelines are, or who the investor is so you can talk to them directly, you can’t find out,” he said.

MERS has considered making information about secondary ownership of mortgages available to borrowers, Mr. Arnold said, but he expressed doubts that it would be useful. Banks appoint a servicer to manage individual mortgages so “investors are not in the business of dealing with borrowers,” he said. “It seems like anything that bypasses the servicer is counterproductive,” he added.

When foreclosures do occur, MERS becomes responsible for initiating them as the mortgage holder of record. But because MERS occupies that role in name only, the bank actually servicing the loan deputizes its employees to act for MERS and has its lawyers file foreclosures in the name of MERS.

The potential for confusion is multiplied when the high-tech MERS system collides with the paper-driven foreclosure process. Banks using MERS to consummate mortgage trades with “electronic handshakes” must later prove their legal standing to foreclose. But without the chain of title that MERS removed from the public record, banks sometimes recreate paper assignments long after the fact or try to replace mortgage notes lost in the securitization process.

This maneuvering has been attacked by judges, who say it reflects a cavalier attitude toward legal safeguards for property owners, and exploited by borrowers hoping to delay foreclosure. Judge Logan in Florida, among the first to raise questions about the role of MERS, stopped accepting MERS foreclosures in 2005 after his colloquy with the company lawyer. MERS appealed and won two years later, although it has asked banks not to foreclose in its name in Florida because of lingering concerns.

Last February, a State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn, Arthur M. Schack, rejected a foreclosure based on a document in which a Bank of New York executive identified herself as a vice president of MERS. Calling her “a milliner’s delight by virtue of the number of hats she wears,” Judge Schack wondered if the banker was “engaged in a subterfuge.”

In Seattle, Ms. McDonnell has raised similar questions about bankers with dual identities and sloppily prepared documents, helping to delay foreclosure on the home of Darlene and Robert Blendheim, whose subprime lender went out of business and left a confusing paper trail.

“I had never heard of MERS until this happened,” Mrs. Blendheim said. “It became an issue with us, because the bank didn’t have the paperwork to prove they owned the mortgage and basically recreated what they needed.”

The avalanche of foreclosures — three million last year, up 81 percent from 2007 — has also caused unforeseen problems for the people who run MERS, who take obvious pride in their unheralded role as a fulcrum of the American mortgage industry.

In Delaware, MERS is facing a class-action lawsuit by homeowners who contend it should be held accountable for fraudulent fees charged by banks that foreclose in MERS’s name.

Sometimes, banks have held title to foreclosed homes in the name of MERS, rather than their own. When local officials call and complain about vacant properties falling into disrepair, MERS tries to track down the lender for them, and has also created a registry to locate property managers responsible for foreclosed homes.

“But at the end of the day,” said Mr. Arnold, president of MERS, “if that lawn is not getting mowed and we cannot find the party who’s responsible for that, I have to get out there and mow that lawn.”

Bank Fails to Rebut Satisfaction’s Validity Created By Notary’s Acknowledgment; FORECLOSURE DENIED! -Wells Fargo Bank NA v. Moise

ROBO-SIGNER

The trial court opinion was published in the New York Law Journal.

KINGS COUNTY
Real Property
Bank Fails to Rebut Satisfaction’s Validity Created By Notary’s Acknowledgment; Foreclosure Denied

Wells Fargo Bank NA v. Moise

Defendants seek summary judgment based on the fact that Plaintiff has not shown a valid assignment of the mortgage and note. 

Plaintiff originally submitted an assignment of the mortgage dated April 30, 2009. The assignment was signed by Yolanda Williams, Assistant Secretary of Mortgage Electronic Systems, Inc..  However, the notary public’s acknowledgement states that she witnessed and acknowledged the signature of Herman John Kennerty, whose name does not appear anywhere on the document. 

Plaintiff acknowledges that there was a mistake on the assignment and argues the mistake was de minimis not curat lex.  It also argues that the Court should simply replace the defective assignment with the correction assignment, and proceed with its action.  In fact, the error was not de minimis as the signature of the purported assignor was not acknowledged, rendering the assignment a nullity. 

 A simple typographical error can be amended, but a failure to properly acknowledge the signature of a person who signed the instrument cannot be. No affidavit is submitted either Yolanda Williams or the notary Lisa Rhyne explaining what the alleged error was or how it occurred. In fact, the so called “correction” assignment in fact is acknowledged by a different notary on a different date.