Lenders Repurchase $3 Billion in Mortgages from GSEs in Q1: DSNEWS

BY: CARRIE BAY DSNEWS.com

With home loans going bad at a still-staggering pace and losses mounting for the GSEs, the nation’s two largest mortgage financiers are pursuing several avenues to recover money, including returning poorly underwritten loans to lenders. During the first three months of this year,Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae required lenders to buy back $3.1 billion in mortgages they’d sold to the two firms.

Lenders repurchased approximately $1.8 billion in loans from Fannie in Q1, measured by unpaid principal balance, according to a recent filing by the GSE with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). During the same period last year, Fannie forced lenders to buy back $1.1 billion in bad loans.

“We conduct reviews of delinquent loans and, when we discover loans that do not meet our underwriting and eligibility requirements, we make demands for lenders to repurchase these loans or compensate us for losses sustained on the loans, as well as requests for repurchase or compensation for loans for which the mortgage insurer rescinds coverage,” Fannie wrote in the regulatory filing.

Freddie Mac sent $1.3 billion in faulty home mortgages back to the loan sellers during the January to March period, the GSE said in its Q1 SEC filing. That compares to repurchases of $789 million during the first quarter of 2009.

“We are exposed to institutional credit risk arising from the potential insolvency or non-performance by our mortgage seller/servicers, including non-performance of their repurchase obligations arising from breaches of the representations and warranties made to us for loans they underwrote and sold to us,” Freddie Mac explained in the regulatory document.

Freddie says some of its seller/servicers failed to perform their repurchase obligations due to lack of financial capacity, and many of the larger seller/servicers have not completed their buybacks “in a timely manner.”

“As of March 31, 2010 and December 31, 2009, we had outstanding repurchase requests to our seller/servicers with respect to loans with an unpaid principal balance of approximately $4.8 billion and $3.8 billion, respectively,” the GSE said.

As of the end of March, approximately 34 percent of Freddie’s outstanding purchase requests were more than 90 days past due.

“Our credit losses may increase to the extent our seller/servicers do not fully perform their repurchase obligations,” Freddie Mac wrote in the filing. “Enforcing repurchase obligations with lender customers who have the financial capacity to perform those obligations could also negatively impact our relationships with such customers and ability to retain market share.”

According to regulatory filings made by the GSEs earlier in the year, the two companies are expecting to return as much as $21 billion in home mortgages to banks in 2010. The nation’s four largest lenders – Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase – are the largest sellers of home loans to Fannie and Freddie and will likely take the biggest hits.

A recent report from Bloomberg noted that these banks sell mortgages to the GSEs at full value, which means they must buy them back at full value. But the news agency says at least one bank, JPMorgan Chase, says most of the loans repurchased must be immediately written down, sometimes by as much as 50 percent.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Securities and Investments: Fraud Digest

Securities and Investments 

Morgan Stanley

Action Date: May 12, 2010 
Location: New York, NY 

EDITORIAL: On May 12, 2010, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Executive announced in response to a Wall Street Journal article that he was unaware of any criminal investigation by the Justice Department that his firm, like Goldman Sachs, misled investors about mortgage-backed derivative deals. The WSJ had reported that Morgan Stanley was the subject of such an investigation. In addition to determining whether the firm was betting against the very products it was promoting to investors, the Justice Department COULD investigate whether Morgan Stanley and other securities firms exercised secret control over the rating agencies, causing risky investments to get the highest ratings by these firms. The Justice Department COULD also investigate whether the mortgage-backed trusts put together by Morgan Stanley were comprised of much riskier mortgages than represented to investors. Another investigation COULD be conducted regarding the pay-outs from the insurance policies behind the CDOs and whether the servicing companies working for the trusts are collecting twice – from the insurance and from the foreclosures – and then turning around, acquiring the foreclosed properties for $10 – and profiting yet a third time. Investigators COULD even determine whether foreclosure mills working for trusts created by Morgan Stanley are now using forged proof of ownership to foreclose because Morgan Stanley never acquired the mortgages, notes and assignments they claimed to have in their vaults, backing the mortgage-backed securities. In the battle between the Justice Department and Wall Street, Goliath is in New York, not D.C. 

Why Don’t Lenders Renegotiate More Home Mortgages? The Effect of Securitization

Abstract:

Securitization does not explain the reluctance among lenders to renegotiate home mortgages. We focus on seriously delinquent borrowers from 2005 through the third quarter of 2008 and show that servicers renegotiate similarly small fractions of securitized and portfolio loans. The results are robust toseveral different definitions of renegotiation and hold in subsamples where unobserved heterogeneity is likely to be small. We argue that information issues endemic to home mortgages where lenders negotiatewith large numbers of borrowers lead to barriers to renegotiation fundamentally different from thosepresent with other types of debt.

Deutsche Bank Faces U.S. Mortgage Securities Suit: REUTERS

Deutsche Bank Faces U.S. Mortgage Securities Suit

Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) faces a U.S. class-action lawsuit over mortgage-related securities it helped arrange, Germany’s biggest lender said in its first-quarter report.

April 27, 2010

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank faces a U.S. class-action lawsuit over mortgage-related securities it helped arrange, Germany’s biggest lender said in its first-quarter report.

But it tried to distance itself from a whirlwind sweeping Wall Street rival Goldman Sachs by revealing it had not been informed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of any imminent charges.

It said the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco had filed suit regarding the role a number of financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank affiliates, had played as issuer and underwriter of certain mortgage pass-through certificates purchased by the San Francisco-based bank.

“In addition, certain affiliates of Deutsche Bank, including DBSI, have been named in a putative class action pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York regarding their roles as issuer and underwriter of certain mortgage pass-through securities,” it said.

“On April 5, 2010, the Court granted in part and denied in part Deutsche Bank’s motion to dismiss this complaint. Each of the civil litigations is otherwise in its early stages.”

As scrutiny of Goldman Sachs gained pace ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, Deutsche said the SEC had not informed the bank that any charges were pending.

“We have not received a Wells notice,” Deutsche Bank Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause told analysts during a conference call on first-quarter earnings.

COOPERATING FULLY

Regulators send so-called Wells notices to firms or people to alert them of the likelihood that the U.S. government will file an enforcement action against them.

This gives targets the right to argue why they should not be charged by filing a “Wells submission.”

In its quarterly report, Deutsche Bank reiterated it had got subpoenas and requests for information from regulators and governments concerning its role in the origination, purchase, securitization, sale and trading of asset-backed securities, asset-backed commercial paper and credit derivatives.

This included residential mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.

“Deutsche Bank is cooperating fully in response to those subpoenas and requests for information,” the company said.

Krause said the subpoenas were not related to any current issues.

“We have done our internal review of our transactions. We do not feel that we have any similar situation to the one that is being discussed,” he said.

The comments come ahead of a hearing later on Tuesday by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into the role of investment banks in the financial crisis.

The hearing is shaping up as a trial of Goldman’s business practices and comes as the U.S. bank battles a fraud suit by the SEC and the Senate weighs a massive bill to overhaul financial regulation.

Goldman Sachs and Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein were hit with a shareholder lawsuit claiming they hid key details about a risky transaction that resulted in civil fraud charges and a plummet in its stock price.

Monday’s lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court accused Goldman of making materially false and misleading statements about an Abacus collateralized debt obligation tied to subprime mortgages that regulators say it created and marketed although it was designed to lose money.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor, Michael Shields and Arno Schuetze; Editing by Hans Peters)

Copyright 2010 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The Anatomy of the Mortgage Securitization Crisis

Abstract:

The current crisis in the mortgage securitization industry highlights significant failures in our models of how markets work and our political will, organizational capability, and ideological desire to intervene in markets. This paper shows that one of the main sources of failure has been the lack of a coherent understanding of how these markets came into existence, how tactics and strategies of the principal firms in these markets have evolved over time, and how we ended up with the economic collapse of the main firms. It seeks to provide some insight into these processes by compiling both historical and quantitative data on the emergence and spread of these tactics across the largest investment banks and their principal competitors from the mortgage origination industry. It ends by offering some policy proscriptions based on the analysis.

SOURCE:

The Anatomy of the Mortgage Securitization Crisis.