U.S. Banks WILL BE ‘Toast’ If Struggling Homeowners Keep Walking Away (VIDEO)

Huffington Post | Sherry Shen First Posted: 06- 2-10 05:11 PM | Updated: 06- 2-10 05:11 PM

Felix Salmon

click for video

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon believes that if more and more struggling homeowners continue walking away from their homes, U.S. banks could be “toast.”

As strategically defaults continue to rise, some homeowners are using their inability to pay their mortgage to live rent free — often for more than a year, the New York Times reported.

“Trying to renegotiate your mortgage is not a morally reprehensible thing to do,” Salmon said, pointing out that mainstream media organization’s like the New York Times magazine has been publishing columns about this trend and how it makes so much “financial sense.” Corporations walk away from commercial mortgages, Salmon said. “It’s not clear to me why an individual should behave any different,” Salmon said.

Wells Fargo is most exposed to the trend, affecting the bank’s livelihood. “Sand state” banks such as those in Florida and California are also far more exposed. Here’s more from Salmon:

“From the bank’s point of view, if this catches on, there’s a very large number of banks in this country who are just toast. And in hindsight they were just much better off dealing in a realistic way with these borrowers a year ago or two years ago when the problem first reeled its head instead of extending and pretending. Now they are in a pickle.”

“If this trend continues, then the banking system is probably insolvent,” he said.

Chase Sued: Allegedly Told Homeowner To Stop Payments, Then Foreclosed: The Huffington Post

Arthur Delaney Arthur Delaney Tue Apr 6, 7:09 pm ET

JPMorgan Chase told a California couple to quit making mortgage payments in order to qualify for a loan modification but then foreclosed on their Sacramento home, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Faiz and Khadija Jahani called Chase in December 2008 because they were having trouble making their mortgage payments. According to the suit, they were told that they wouldn’t qualify for a modification without being delinquent and that they should stop making payments for three months.

At the beginning of June, the Jahanis claim that they were told they qualified for a modification that reduced their monthly payments. Three weeks later, they received a letter telling them the bank intended to foreclose. This confusing back-and-forth continued for months, with Chase repeatedly asking them to resend paperwork, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California/Sacramento Division, which was first reported by Courthouse News.

The couple is demanding damages of $150,000 for breach of contract, fraud, predatory lending and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

In October, a real-estate investor knocked on the Jahanis’ door and asked them about buying the house, telling the couple that it was a bank-owned property. When the Jahanis called Chase to find out what was going on, they claim they were reassured that the bank had not foreclosed on the house.

“They kept getting conflicting information,” said lawyer Piotr Reysner. He added that, as far as he can tell from public records, the bank did in fact foreclose on the property. “Unfortunately, they face a situation right now where they could easily get a three-day notice to quit the house.”

Chase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reysner, a bankruptcy attorney, said he did not know whether the Jahanis had been pursuing their modification via the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which started in spring 2009 and gives banks incentives to modify mortgages for hard-luck homeowners. Banks are not allowed to foreclose on borrowers eligible for the program, but they are allowed to move forward with the foreclosure process during a trial modification, a source of much confusion for borrowers everywhere.

“The fact that a servicer is telling a homeowner that they’re taking care of the matter and, while they’re negotiating, the house moves into foreclosure is a completely common scenario in today’s foreclosure world,” said Ira Rheingold, director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

In March, HuffPost reported on Indiana law student Melissa Stuart, who had been making monthly payments under HAMP, only to be told when the trial period ended that she was delinquent. Stuart ultimately won a permanent modification.

HuffPost readers: Weird bank problem? Tell us about it — email arthur@huffingtonpost.com.

UPDATE 6:05 PM: Several readers and commenters have written to say they’re having the same kind of problem. And Melissa Huelsman, a Seattle attorney whose practice focuses on predatory lending and wrongful foreclosure, wrote HuffPost to say clients of hers went through the same process as the Jahanis and were ultimately evicted. She wrote:

I’m just getting ready to file suit against Chase for this same thing, except my clients were actually making their trial loan mod payments up until the month before Chase foreclosed. They went to make the December payment but got a knock on the door from a realtor before they could do so. They spent a couple of weeks trying to get someone at Chase to fix the problem, except that Chase kept telling them that the property had not been foreclosed. Turns out Chase was wrong and the house was sold to a third party. They were just evicted a couple weeks ago and we’re getting ready to file.

Related blogs: Janet Murguía: Obama Steps Up on Foreclosures, Next Step is to Make Sure Families Reap the Benefits, Jonathan B. Mintz: The Top 10 Financial Products and Services that Must Be Regulated in 2010

Read More: Chase Bank, Hamp, JPMorgan Chase, Mortgage, Mortgage Modification

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Could Bloomberg Lawsuit Mean Death to Zombie Banks?

Center for Media and Democracy and http://www.BanksterUSA.org

Posted: March 28, 2010 09:43 AM
My recollection is a bit hazy. How does one kill a zombie exactly? Do you stake it? Cut off its head? Nationalize it? Perhaps it’s time to ask the experts at Bloomberg News.

Lost in the haze of the hoopla surrounding the insurance reform bill was some big news on the financial reform front. On March 19, Bloomberg won its lawsuit against the Federal Reserve for information that could expose which “too big to fail” banks in the United States are walking zombies and which banks were merely rotting.

Bloomberg, which has done some of the best reporting on the financial crisis, is also leading the charge on the fight for transparency at the Federal Reserve and in the financial sector. While many policymakers and reporters were focusing their attention on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout bill passed by Congress, Bloomberg was one of the first to notice that the TARP program was small change compared to the estimated $2-3 trillion flowing out the back door of the Federal Reserve to prop up the financial system in the early months of the crisis.

Way back in November 2008, Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Fed what institutions were receiving the money, how much, and what collateral was being posted for these loans. Their basic argument: when trillions in taxpayer money is being loaned out to shaky institutions, don’t the taxpayers deserve to know their chances of being paid back?

Not according to the Fed. The Fed declined to respond, forcing Bloomberg to sue in Federal Court. In August of 2009, Bloomberg won the suit. With the backing of the big banks, the Fed appealed , and this month, Bloomberg won again. A three judge appellate panel dismissed the Fed’s arguments that the information was protect “confidential business information” and told the Fed that the public deserved answers.

The Fed is the only institution in the United States that can print money. It can drag this case out as long as it wants, but isn’t it a bid odd that taxpayer dollars are being used to keep information from the taxpayers?

After an unexpectedly rocky confirmation battle, Ben Bernanke kicked off his new term as Fed Chair in February with pledges of openness and transparency. “It is essential that the public have the information it needs to understand and be assured of the integrity of all our operations, including all aspects of our balance sheet and our financial controls,” said Bernanke. President Obama also pledged a new era of transparency when he entered office. What is going on here?

One theory is that Fed is hiding the secret assistance it provided to the financial sector, because it would expose how many Wall Street institutions are truly walking zombies, kept alive by accounting tricks like deferred-tax assets, “a fancy term for pent-up losses that the bank hopes to use later to cut its tax bills,” according to Bloomberg’s Jonathan Wiel. If this is the case, it raises doubts about the wisdom of Congress’ only plan to take care of the “too big to fail” problem by trusting regulators to “resolve” failing banks. If there is no will to resolve them now, why should we think regulators will resolve them in the future?

Another theory is that the Fed is hiding the fact that it broke the law by accepting a boatload of toxic assets as collateral. The law says the Fed is only supposed to take “investment grade” assets as collateral.

In either case, the public deserves answers. “This money does not belong to the Federal Reserve,” Senator Bernie Sanders. “It belongs to the American people, and the American people have a right to know where more than $2 trillion of their money has gone.”

The President and the Fed Chairman must live up to their pledges of transparency. They can start by abandoning this lawsuit and opening the doors on the Secrets of the Temple.