LPS Using TARP Funds to Cover-Up Assignment of Mortgage

Consumer ID thefts or consumer identity thefts is one of the main crimes that cause financial as well as emotional anguish. The rubber-stamping of Assignments of Mortgage and the Double Dipping of foreclosure fees and cost expedite the foreclosure process and line the silk pockets of these attorneys, banks and LPS executives.

This is a copy of the September 14, 2009 e-mail from Adrian Lofton to Bradley Johnson, lead Attorney at Taylor, Day, Currie, Boyd and Johnson apprizing him of their TARP fund violations.

Brad, your firm has created a conflict of interest by representing these banks. In addition to the aforementioned, you are not legally entitled to accept TARP funds to represent these banks after your firm implicated them in these federal violations.
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THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS: BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq.

THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF

MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS

BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq., Editor, Fraud Digest (szymoniak@mac.com),

April 15, 2010

On May 11, 2010, Judge Arthur J. Schack, Supreme Court, Kings County, New York, entered an order denying a foreclosure action with prejudice. The case involved a mortgage-backed securitized trust, SG Mortgage Securities Asset Backed Certificates, Series 2006-FRE2. U.S. Bank, N.A. served as Trustee for the SG Trust. See U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Emmanuel, 2010 NY Slip Op 50819 (u), Supreme Court, Kings County, decided May 11, 2010. In this case, as in hundreds of thousands of other cases involving securitized trusts, the trust inexplicably did not produce mortgage assignments from the original lender to the depositor to the securities company to the trust.

This particular residential mortgage-backed securities trust in the Emmanuel case had a cut-off date of July 1, 2006. The entities involved in the creation and early agreements of this trust included Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as servicer, U.S. Bank, N.A. as trustee, Bear Stearns Financial Products as the “swap provider” and SG Mortgage Securities, LLC. The Class A Certificates in the trust were given a rating of “AAA” by Dominion Bond Rating Services on July 13, 2006.

The designation “FRE” in the title of this particular trust indicates that the loans in the trust were made by Fremont Investment & Loan, a bank and subprime lender and subsidiary of Fremont General Corporation. The “SG” in the title of the trust indicates that the loans were “securitized” by Signature Securities Group Corporation, or an affiliate.

Fremont, a California-based corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 19, 2008, but continued in business as a debtor-in-possession. On March 31, 2008, Fremont General sold its mortgage servicing rights to Carrington Capital Management, a hedge fund focused on the subprime residential mortgage securities market. Carrington Capital operated Carrington Mortgage Services, a company that had already acquired the mortgage servicing business of New Century after that large sub-prime lender also filed for bankruptcy. Carrington Mortgage Services provides services a portfolio of nearly 90,000 loans with an outstanding principal balance of over $16 billion. Nearly 63% of the portfolio is comprised of adjustable rate mortgages. Mortgage servicing companies charge  substantially higher fees for servicing adjustable rate mortgages than fixed-rate mortgages. Those fees, often considered the most lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business, are paid by the securitized trusts that bought the loans from the original lenders (Fremont & New Century), after the loans had been combined into trusts by securities companies, like Financial Assets Securities Corporation, SG and Carrington Capital.

Carrington Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, is headed by Bruce Rose, who left Salomon Brothers in 2003 to start Carrington. At Carrington, Rose packaged $23 billion in subprime mortgages. Many of those securities included loans originated by now-bankrupt New Century Financial. Carrington forged unique contracts that let it direct any foreclosure and liquidations of the underlying loans. Foreclosure management is also a very lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business. As with servicing adjustable rate mortgages, the fees for the foreclosure management are paid ultimately by the trust. There is little or no oversight of the fees charged for the foreclosure actions. The vast majority of foreclosure cases are uncontested, but the foreclosure management firms may nevertheless charge the trust several thousand dollars for each foreclosure of a property in the trust.

The securities companies and their affiliates also benefit from the bankruptcies of the original lenders. On May 12, 2010, Signature Group Holdings LLP, (“SG”) announced that it had been chosen to revive fallen subprime mortgage lender Freemont General, once the fifth-largest U.S. subprime mortgage lender. A decision to approve Signature’s reorganization plan for Fremont was made through a bench ruling issued by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, CA. The bid for Fremont lasted nearly two years, with several firms competing for the acquisition.

The purchase became much more lucrative for prospective purchasers in late March, 2010, when Fremont General announced that it would settle more than $89 million in tax obligations to the Internal Revenue Service without actually paying a majority of the back taxes. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana Division, approved a motion that allowed Fremont General to claim a net operating loss deduction for 2004 that is attributable for its 2006 tax obligations, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, Fremont General will deduct additional 2004 taxes, because of a temporary extension to the period when companies can claim the credit. The extension from two years to five went into effect when President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. While approved by the bankruptcy court judge, the agreement must also meet the approval of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, but according to the SEC filing, both Fremont General and the IRS anticipate that it will be approved. In all, Fremont’s nearly $89.4 million tax assessment was reduced to about $2.8 million, including interest. In addition, as a result of the IRS agreement, a California Franchise Tax Board tax claim of $13.3 million was reduced to $550,000.

Another development that made the purchase especially favorable for SG was the announcement on May 10, 2010, that Federal Insurance Co. has agreed to pay Fremont General Corp. the full $10 million loss limits of an errors and omissions policy to cover subprime lending claims, dropping an 18-month battle over whether the claims were outside the scope of its bankers professional liability policies.

All of these favorable developments are part of a long history of success for Craig Noell, the head of Signature Group Holdings, the winning bidder for Fremont. Previously, as a member of the distressed investing area at Goldman Sachs, Noell founded and ran Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending, investing Goldman’s proprietary capital in “special situations opportunities.”

Bruce Rose’s Carrington Mortgage Services and Craig Noell’s Signature Group Holdings are part of the story of the attempted foreclosure on Arianna Emmanuel in Brooklyn, New York. U.S. Bank, N.A., as Trustee for SG Mortgage Securities Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006 FRE-2 attempted to foreclose on Arianna Emmanuel. The original mortgage had been made by Fremont Investment & Loan (the beneficiary of the $100 milion tax break and the $10 million insurance payout discussed above).

To successfully foreclose, the Trustee needed to produce proof that the Trust had acquired the loan from Fremont. At this point, the document custodian for the trust needed only to produce the mortgage assignment. The securities company that made the SG Trust, the mortgage servicing company that serviced the trust and U.S. Bank as Trustee had all made frequent sworn statements to the SEC and shareholders that these documents were safely stored in a fire-proof  vault.

Despite these frequent representations to the SEC, the assignment relied upon by U.S. Bank, the trustee, was one executed by Elpiniki Bechakas as assistant secretary and vice president of MERS, as nominee for Freemont. In foreclosure cases all over the U.S., assignments signed by Elpiniki Bechakas are never questioned. But on May 11, 2010, the judge examining the mortgage assignment was the Honorable Arthur J. Schack in Brooklyn, New York.

Bechakas signed as an officer of MERS, as nominee for Fremont, representing that the property had been acquired by the SG Trust in June, 2009. None of this was true. Judge Schack determined sua sponte that Bechakas was an associate in the law offices of Steven J. Baum, the firm representing the trustee and trust in the foreclosure. Judge Schack recognized that the Baum firm was thus working for both the GRANTOR and GRANTEE. Judge Schack wrote, “The Court is concerned that the concurrent representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both assignor MERS, as nominee for FREMONT, and assignee plaintiff U.S. BANK is a conflict of interest, in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.0 (Rules of Professional Conduct, effective April 1, 2009) Rule 1.7, “Conflict of Interest: Current Clients.”

Judge Schack focused squarely on an issue that pro se homeowner litigants and foreclosure defense lawyers often attempt to raise – the authority of the individuals signing mortgage assignments that are used by trusts to foreclose. In tens of thousands of cases, law firm employees sign as MERS officers, without disclosing to the Court or to homeowners that they are actually employed by the law firm, not MERS, and that the firm is being paid and working on behalf of the Trust/Grantee while the firm employee is signing on behalf of the original lender/Grantor.

Did the SG Trust acquire the Emmanuel loan in 2006, the closing date of the trust, or in 2009, the date chosen by Belchakas and her employers? There are tremendous tax advantages being claimed by banks and mortgage companies based on their portfolio of nonperforming loans. There are also millions of dollars in insurance payouts being made ultimately because of non-performing loans. There are substantial fees being charged by mortgage servicing companies and mortgage default management companies – being paid by trusts and assessed on homeowners in default. The question of the date of the transfer is much more than an academic exercise.

As important as the question of WHEN, there is also the question of WHAT – what exactly did the trust acquire? What is the reason for the millions of assignments to trusts that flooded recorders’ offices nationwide starting in 2007 that were prepared by law firm employees like Bechakas or by employees of mortgage default companies or document preparation companies specializing is providing “replacement” mortgage documents. Why, in judicial foreclosure states, are there thousands of Complaints for Foreclosure filed with the allegations: “We Own the Note; we had the note; we lost the note.” Why do bankruptcy courts repeatedly see these same three allegations in Motions For Relief of Stay filed by securitized trusts attempting to foreclose? If the assignments and notes are missing, has the trust acquired anything (other than investors’ money, tax advantages and insurance payouts)? In many cases, the mortgage servicing company does eventually acquire the property – often by purchasing the property after foreclosure for ten dollars and selling it to the trust that had claimed ownership from the start.

Where are the missing mortgage assignments?

Gov’t to rate how lenders treat borrowers: AP

Very simple.

 

Posted on Mon, May. 3, 2010

Gov’t to rate how lenders treat borrowers

By Alan Zibel

AP Real Estate Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Treasury Department is planning to rate mortgage companies on how they treat customers as part of the Obama administration’s $75 billion foreclosure relief effort.

The new report will include measurements of how each company is handling borrowers and is expected by July, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Senate lawmakers on Thursday.

More than 100 companies participate in the program, which is designed to help up to 4 million borrowers avoid foreclosure.

Speaking in unusually strong language, Geithner said many companies “are not responding to the needs of responsible and increasingly desperate homeowners.”

If they don’t comply with the program’s rules, he said, “we will withhold incentives or demand their repayment.”

The program is designed to lower borrowers’ monthly payments by reducing mortgage rates to as low as 2 percent for five years and extending loan terms to as long as 40 years. Mortgage companies get taxpayer incentives to reduce borrowers’ monthly payments. Homeowners have to complete at least three months of payments to qualify for permanent loan modifications.

About 231,000 homeowners have completed this process so far. That’s about 20 percent of the 1.2 million borrowers who started the program over the past year.

Many experts say that’s inadequate. “Families are tragically being foreclosed on when foreclosure was preventable,” said Richard Neiman, New York’s top banking regulator and a member of the independent Congressional Oversight Panel. The panel was set up to oversee the government’s financial bailout programs.

And the number of dropouts is rising. About 155,000 homeowners didn’t complete the initial trial phase. Another 2,900 fell out even after their loans were modified. Many more are still in limbo.

Close watch on the US…UK regulator begins Goldman Sachs probe

I think it is donzo for GS. They might try to get away with it here but UK…is another story. There is no White House.

Source: Associated Press

People enter Goldman Sachs headquarters, Monday, April 19, 2010, in New York. Stocks are falling on concerns about the fallout over Goldman Sachs being charged with civil fraud tied to its dealings in bonds backed by sub-prime mortgages. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Jane Wardell, AP Business Writer, On Tuesday April 20, 2010, 6:40 am EDT

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s financial regulator launched a full-blown investigation into Goldman Sachs International on Tuesday after U.S. authorities filed civil fraud charges against its parent bank.

The announcement from the Financial Services Authority follows pressure for the probe from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who expressed shock over the weekend at Goldman’s “moral bankruptcy.”

The British regulator said it would liaise closely with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which alleges that the bank sold risky mortgage-based investments without telling buyers that the securities were crafted in part by a billionaire hedge fund manager who was betting on them to fail.

The London-headquartered Goldman Sachs International, a principal subsidiary of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said that “the SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact.” It said it looks “forward to cooperating with the FSA.”

British interest in the case is likely to focus on the Royal Bank of Scotland, which paid $841 million to Goldman Sachs in 2007 to unwind its position in a fund acquired in the takeover of Dutch Bank ABN Amro, according to the complaint filed in the United States.

The possibility that RBS might be able to recoup some money from Goldman Sachs helped boost the government-controlled bank’s shares, which were up 2.8 percent at midday.

The government holds an 84 percent stake in the bank, which nearly collapsed in large part because of its leadership of the consortium which took over the Dutch bank.

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs executive named in the SEC lawsuit filed on Friday was moved to the bank’s London office at the end of 2008.

Analysts warn that damage from the case could hit other big banks as well, as the Goldman lawsuit puts the spotlight on the sector’s activities in the wake of the financial crisis.

Brown’s anger was fueled by reports over the weekend that Goldman Sachs still intended to pay out 3.5 billion pounds ($5.4 billion) in bonuses.

The British leader, who is facing a tough general election on May 6, said that the activities of banks “are still an issue.”

“They are a risk to the economy,” he said. “We have got to make sure they behave in a proper way.”

The opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, meanwhile, called on Brown to suspend Goldman from government work until the investigations are completed.

AP reporter Robert Barr in London contributed to this statement.

Goldman Sachs taps ex-W.H. counsel: SCAM THICKENS!

By EAMON JAVERS & MIKE ALLEN | 4/19/10 8:14 PM EDT
Updated: 4/19/10 10:03 PM by POLITICO

Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.

The beleaguered Wall Street bank hired Craig — now in private practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — in recent weeks to help in navigate the halls of power in Washington, a source familiar with the firm told POLITICO.

“He is clearly an attorney of eminence and has a deep understanding of the legal process and the world of Washington,” the source said. “And those are important worlds for everybody in finance right now.”

They’re particularly important for Goldman.

On Friday, the SEC charged the firm with securities fraud in a convoluted subprime mortgage deal that took place before the collapse of the housing market. Next week, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein will face questions from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is looking into the causes of the housing meltdown, the source said.

In Craig, Goldman Sachs will have help from a lawyer with deep connections in Democratic circles.

Craig served as White House counsel during the first year of Obama’s presidency, but is seen as having been pushed out for his role in advocating a strict timeline for the closing of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. His departure frustrated many liberal Obama supporters who saw Craig as a strong advocate for undoing some of what they saw as the worst excesses of the Bush era.

But the source familiar with Goldman’s operations said Craig wasn’t hired just because he’s well-connected.

“It’s about advice and process,” the source said. “People will always leap to the conclusion that it’s about somebody’s Rolodex.”

Skadden declined to comment on Craig’s role with Goldman.

“A former White House employee cannot appear before any unit of the Executive Office of the President on behalf of any client for 2 years—one year under federal law and another year under the pledge pursuant to the January 2009 ethics E0,” said a White House official.

The official also said that the White House had no contact with the SEC on the Goldman Sachs case. “The SEC by law is an independent agency that does not coordinate with the White House any part of their enforcement actions.”

Whatever the reason for his hiring, Craig will presumably be a key player in the intricate counterattack Goldman Sachs officials in Washington and Manhattan improvised during the weekend — a plan that took clearer shape Monday as Britain and Germany announced that they might conduct their own investigations of the firm.

For three weeks, Goldman had planned to hold a conference call Tuesday to unveil its first-quarter earnings for shareholders. Shifting into campaign mode after the SEC’s surprise fraud filing, Goldman has moved the call up from 11 a.m. to 8 a.m. to try to get ahead of the day’s buzz. In an unusual addition, the firm’s chief counsel will be on the line to answer questions about the case, and Goldman is inviting policymakers and clients to listen to the earnings call themselves rather than rely on news reports.

Industry officials said the conference call — which will include, as originally planned, Chief Financial Officer David Viniar — will amount to a public unveiling of Goldman’s crisis strategy.

But the linchpin of that plan is already clear: An attempt to discredit the Securities and Exchange Commission by painting the case as tainted by politics because it was announced just as President Barack Obama was ramping up his push for financial regulatory reform, including a planned trip to New York on Thursday.

“The charges were brought in a manner calculated to achieve maximum impact at point of penetration,” a Goldman executive said.

Among the points Greg Palm, co-general counsel, plans to emphasize on the call is “how out of the ordinary the process was with the SEC,” the executive said. The SEC usually gives firms a chance to settle such charges before they are made public. Goldman executives say they had no such chance,and learned about the filing while watching CNBC.

With a monstrous problem and mammoth resources, the iconic firm is paying for advice from a huge array of outside consultants, including such top Washington advisers as Ken Duberstein and Jack Martin, founder of Public Strategies.

The basic plan: Make a tough, factual case without coming off as arrogant or combative and without souring the firm’s image even further.

Partly because of the firm’s belief that it has become an easy target, no Goldman officials have appeared on television since the SEC announced its case.

The firm thinks it can be more effective if others make its case. On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times, who gets special attention from Goldman spinners, raised questions about the substance of the SEC’s case. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he is “a little interested in the timing” of the case.

Reflecting a high-stakes balance for the unpopular investment bank, Goldman plans to stop short of a frontal attack. Instead, it is raising questions and feeding ammunition to allies.

“We don’t want to come across as being arrogant and above it all,” said a Goldman executive who insisted on anonymity. “The SEC is the major regulator of several of our businesses. Being at war with them is not the goal.”

Therefore, an official said, a key Goldman message in the days ahead will be, “We’re not against regulation. We’re for regulation. We partner with regulators.”

Goldman said its most important audience is its client base, from CEOs all over the world to pension-fund managers to entrepreneurs who use the firm’s private wealth-management services. The firm sent its staff two pages of talking points giving basic facts — and the official line — about the SEC case: “Goldman Sachs Lost Money on the Transaction … Objective Disclosure Was Provided.”

The less official message, according to one executive: “Don’t believe everything you read in the complaint. Don’t believe everything you read in the press.”

The official said clients have been sympathetic.

Other audiences include the news media and governments around the world, with Goldman reaching out Tuesday to politicians in Europe, Japan, the U.S. and everywhere in between.

Goldman pays extraordinary attention to its alumni network because so many of its former officials are in visible, powerful positions. An official said the firm tries “to empower them with information,” so that when they’re put on the spot about the Goldman case, they can say, “I’m not there, but let me tell you a few things I’ve been told.”

Obama administration to order lenders to cut mortgage payments for jobless

Obama readies steps to fight foreclosures, particularly for unemployed

By Renae Merle and Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 26, 2010

The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.

At a House oversight committee hearing, keys represent foreclosed homes. The administration is planning new steps to fight foreclosures.

At a House oversight committee hearing, keys represent foreclosed homes. The administration is planning new steps to fight foreclosures. (Brendan Hoffman/bloomberg News)

Banks and other lenders would have to reduce the payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower’s income, which would typically be the amount of unemployment insurance, for three to six months. In some cases, administration officials said, a lender could allow a borrower to skip payments altogether.

The new push, which the White House is scheduled to announce Friday, takes direct aim at the major cause of the current wave of foreclosures: the spike in unemployment. While the initial mortgage crisis that erupted three years ago resulted from millions of risky home loans that went bad, more-recent defaults reflect the country’s economic downturn and the inability of jobless borrowers to keep paying.

The administration’s new push also seeks to more aggressively help borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, offering financial incentives for the first time to lenders to cut the loan balances of such distressed homeowners. Those who are still current on their mortgages could get the chance to refinance on better terms into loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

The problem of “underwater” borrowers has bedeviled earlier administration efforts to address the mortgage crisis as home prices plunged.

Officials said the new initiatives will take effect over the next six months and be funded out of $50 billion previously allocated for foreclosure relief in the emergency bailout program for the financial system. No new taxpayer funds will be needed, the officials said.

The measures have been in the works for weeks, but President Obama is finally to release the details days after his watershed victory on health-care legislation. Following that bruising battle on Capitol Hill, his administration is now welcoming a chance to change the subject and turn its attention to the economy and, in particular, the plight of the unemployed — concerns that are paramount for many Americans.

The administration has been facing increasing pressure from lawmakers and housing advocates to overhaul its foreclosure prevention efforts. So far, fewer than 200,000 borrowers have received permanent loan modifications under its $75 billion marquee program, known as Making Home Affordable. In the meantime, there is a growing backlog of distressed borrowers awaiting help from their lenders, which threatens to undercut efforts to stabilize the housing market.

Challenges unmet

Assistant Treasury Secretary Herbert M. Allison Jr. told a House panel Thursday that “we did not fully envision the challenges that we would encounter” when the earlier program was launched.

The efforts have been hampered by the difficulty of helping unemployed homeowners, who struggled to qualify for the government’s mortgage relief plan. In requiring temporary relief for jobless borrowers, known as forbearance, officials are hoping to give them time to find a new job. Some will still need more assistance after the six-month period while others will ultimately lose their homes, administration officials said.

“We certainly support a forbearance opportunity for unemployed borrowers,” said John A. Courson, chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association. He said he had not seen full details of the program.

Four measures

In addition to mortgage relief for unemployed borrowers, the program features four other key elements, including several steps to address the growing population of borrowers who owe significantly more than their home is worth, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made. Underwater borrowers now make up about a quarter of all homeowners, according to First American CoreLogic. Economists consider these homeowners at higher risk of default because they cannot sell or refinance their home when they run into financial troubles.

The first key element is that the government will provide financial incentives to lenders that cut the balance of a borrower’s mortgage. Banks and other lenders will be asked to reduce the principal owed on a loan if the amount is 15 percent more than their home is worth. The reduced amount would be set aside and forgiven by the lender over three years, as long as the homeowner remained current on the loan.

Until recently, administration officials had been reluctant to encourage lenders to cut the principal balance, worrying that this would encourage borrowers to become delinquent. But as federal regulators have struggled to make an impact on the foreclosure crisis, those qualms have weakened.

“We would prefer to see a required principal forgiveness program. But this is helpful,” said David Berenbaum, chief program officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit housing group. “This is another tool that will help consumers weather the crisis.”

Second, the government will double the amount it pays to lenders that help modify second mortgages, such as piggyback loans, which enabled home buyers to put little or no money down, and home equity lines of credit.

These second mortgages are an added burden on struggling homeowners, especially when their total debt, as a result, is greater than their home value.

Federal officials have estimated that about half of all troubled homeowners have a second mortgage and last year launched a program to encourage lenders to restructure them. That effort has struggled to get off the ground.

Third, the new effort also increases the incentives paid to those lenders that find a way to avoid foreclosing on delinquent borrowers even if they can’t qualify for mortgage relief. For example, the administration is scheduled to launch a program next month encouraging lenders to have borrowers sell their homes for less than the mortgage balance in what is known as a short sale.

Fourth, the administration is increasingly turning to the Federal Housing Administration to help underwater borrowers who are still keeping up their payments. The aim is to help these borrowers refinance into a more affordable loan. The FHA will offer incentives to lenders that reduce the amount borrowers owe on their primary mortgages by at least 10 percent.

For those borrowers who have more than one mortgage on their house, the FHA will allow refinancing of the first loan only. The new loan and any second mortgage could not exceed 15 percent of the home’s value. This approach is meant to benefit not only borrowers but also lenders by allowing them to offload mortgages that might otherwise fail.

Only homeowners who are refinancing their main residence, have a credit score above 500 and can document their income are eligible.

Administration official say this refinancing program should not strain the FHA’s already weakened finances because the effort will be financed with up to $14 billion out of the federal bailout program.

The next big bailout is on the way. Prepare to get reamed!

The next big bailout is on the way. Prepare to get reamed!

Mike Whitney
Smirking Chimp
March 16, 2010

Housing is on the rocks and prices are headed lower. That’s not the consensus view, but it’s a reasonably safe assumption. Master illusionist Ben Bernanke managed to engineer a modest 7-month uptick in sales, but the fairydust will wear off later this month when the Fed stops purchasing mortgage-backed securities and long-term interest rates begin to creep higher. The objective of Bernanke’s $1.25 trillion program, which is called quantitative easing, was to transfer the banks “unsellable” MBS onto the Fed’s balance sheet. Having achieved that goal, Bernanke will now have to unload those same toxic assets onto Freddie and Fannie. (as soon as the public is no longer paying attention)

Jobless people don’t buy houses.

Bernanke’s cash giveaway has helped to buoy stock prices and stabilize housing, but market fundamentals are still weak. There’s just too much inventory and too few buyers. Now that the Fed is withdrawing its support, matters will only get worse. 

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the folks at Bloomberg from cheerleading the nascent housing turnaround. Here’s a clip from Monday’s column:

“The U.S. housing market is poised to withstand the removal of government and Federal Reserve stimulus programs and rebound later in the year, contributing to annual economic growth for the first time since 2006. Increases in jobs, credit and affordable homes will help offset the end of the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities this month and the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit in April. Sales will rise about 6 percent this year, and housing will account for 0.25 percentage point of the 3.6 percent growth, according to forecasts by Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital in New York…“The underlying trend is turning positive,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.”

Just for the record; there has been no “increases in jobs”. It’s baloney. Unemployment is flat at 9.7 percent with underemployment checking-in at 16.8 percent. There’s no chance of housing rebound until payrolls increase. Jobless people don’t buy houses.

Also, while it is true that the federal homebuyer tax credit did cause a spike in home purchases; it’s impact has been short-lived and sales are returning to normal. It’s generally believed that “cash for clunker-type” programs merely move demand forward and have no meaningful long-term effect.

So, it’s likely that housing prices–particularly on the higher end–will continue to fall until they return to their historic trend. (probably 10 to 15% lower) That means more trouble for the banks which are already using all kinds of accounting flim-flam (”mark-to-fiction”) to conceal the wretched condition of their balance sheets. Despite the surge in stock prices, the banks are drowning in the losses from their non performing loans and toxic assets. And, guess what; they still face another $1 trillion in Option ARMs and Alt-As that will reset by 2012. it’s all bad.

The Fed has signaled that it’s done all it can to help the banks. Now it’s Treasury’s turn. Bernanke will keep the Fed funds rate at zero for the foreseeable future, but he is not going to expand the Fed’s balance sheet anymore. Geithner understands this and is working frantically to put together the next bailout that will reduce mortgage-principal for underwater homeowners. But it’s a thorny problem because many of the borrowers have second liens which could amount to as much as $477 billion. That means that if the Treasury’s mortgage-principal reduction plan is enacted; it could wipe out the banks. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Financial Times which explains it all:

“A group of investors in mortgage-backed bonds dubbed the Mortgage Investors Coalition (MIC) recently submitted to Congress a plan to overhaul the refinancing of underwater borrowers by writing down the principal balances of both first and second mortgages. The confederation of insurers, asset managers and hedge funds hope to break a logjam between Washington DC and the four megabanks with the most exposure to writedowns on second lien mortgages, including home equity lines of credit.

The private sector initiative coincides with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank’s open letter dated 4 March to the CEOs of the banks in question – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo – urging them to start forgiving principal on the second lien loans they hold.

But the banks are unlikely to take action until they get new accounting guidance from regulators that would ease the impact of such significant principal reductions on their capitalization ratios.”

(Ed.–”Accounting guidance”? Either the banks are holding out for a bigger bailout or they’re looking for looser accounting standards to conceal their losses from their shareholders. Either way, it’s clear that they’re trying to hammer out the best deal possible for themselves regardless of the cost to the taxpayer.)

Financial Times again: “The four banks in question collectively own more than USD 400bn of the USD 1trn in second lien mortgages outstanding. BofA holds USD 149bn, Citi holds USD 54bn, JP Morgan holds USD 101bn and Wells Fargo holds USD 115bn, according to fourth quarter 2009 10Q filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

As proposed, the MIC’s plan entails haircuts to the first and second lien loans to reduce underwater borrowers’ loan to value ratios to 96.5% of current real estate market prices, according to two sources close.

For the program to work, HAMP would place principal balance forgiveness first in the modification waterfall. The associated second lien would take a principal balance reduction but remain intact through the process – ultimately to be re-subordinated to the first lien, the sources close said.

A systemic program to modify second lien mortgages called 2MP does exist but Treasury has stalled on implementation because the banks that hold them can’t afford it, six buyside investors said. The sources all said implementation of the program, called 2MP, would result in “catastrophic” losses for the nation’s four largest banks, which collectively hold more than USD 400bn of the USD 1trn in second lien mortgages outstanding.” (”Mortgage investors push for banks to write down second liens”, Allison Pyburn, Financial Times)

Hold on a minute! Didn’t Geithner just run bank “stress tests” last year to prove that the banks could withstand losses on second liens?

Yes, he did. And the banks passed with flying colors. So, why are the banks whining now about the potential for “catastrophic” losses if the plan goes forward? Either they were lying then or they’re lying now; which is it?

Of course they were lying. Just like that sniveling sycophant Geithner is lying.

According to the Times the banks hold $400 billion in second lien mortgages. But –as Mike Konczal points out–the stress tests projected maximum losses at just “$68 billion. In other words, Geithner rigged the tests so the banks would pass. Now the banks want it both ways: They want people to think that they are solvent enough to pass a basic stress test, but they want to be given another huge chunk of public money to cover their second liens. They want it all, and Geithner’s trying to give it to them. Wanker.

And don’t believe the gibberish from Treasury that “they have no plan for mortgage principal reductions”. According to the Times:

“Treasury continues to tell investors that any day now they will be out with a final program and they will be signed up”….“The party line continues to be they are a week away, two weeks away,” the hedge fund source said. ”

So, it’s not a question of “if” there will be another bank bailout, but “how big” that bailout will be. The banks clearly expect the taxpayer to foot the entire bill regardless of who was responsible for the losses.

So, let’s summarize:

1–Bank bailout #1–$700 billion TARP which allowed the banks to continue operations after the repo and secondary markets froze-over from the putrid loans the banks were peddling.

2–Bank bailout #2–$1.25 trillion Quantitative Easing program which transferred banks toxic assets onto Fed’s balance sheet (soon to be dumped on Fannie and Freddie) while rewarding the perpetrators of the biggest financial crackup in history.

3–Bank bailout #3–$1 trillion to cover all mortgage cramdowns, second liens, as well as any future liabilities including gym fees, energy drinks, double-tall nonfat mocha’s, parking meters etc. ad infinitum.

And as far as the banks taking “haircuts”? Forget about it! Banks don’t take “haircuts”. It looks bad on their quarterly reports and cuts into their bonuses. Taxpayers take haircuts, not banksters. Besides, that’s what Geithner gets paid for–to make sure bigshot tycoons don’t have to pay for their mistakes or bother with the niggling details of fleecing the little people.

The next big bailout is on the way. Prepare to get reamed!