Tag Archive: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Sep 06 2011

No Liability For Banks

It is becoming quite apparent the New York State Attorney General Eric Scheiderman was right about the 50 state AG negotiations to settle the mortgage backed securities fraud. It will shield the banks from liability despite denial by Iowa Ag Tom Miller and others that it would not:

“The negotiation committee, working on behalf of all 50 states, does not have any intention of constraining the office of the New York attorney general in any way, has not tried to do so and could not do so,” Miller said. “Schneiderman was removed from the executive committee because he has, over the last several months, undermined our efforts to reach an agreement.”

In a Financial Times article on Labor Day by Shahien Nasiripour puts an end to that myth:

The talks aim to settle allegations that banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial seized the homes of delinquent borrowers and broke state laws by employing so-called “robosigners”, workers who signed off on foreclosure documents en masse without reviewing the paperwork.

State prosecutors have proposed effectively releasing the companies from legal liability for allegedly wrongful securitisation practices, according to five people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Some state officials have expressed concern that they have offered the banks far too broad a release from liability. . . . . .

The worry over the states’ counterproposal stems from its treatment of loan documents. The term sheet proposes to release the banks from legal liability over how mortgage documents were maintained, prepared and transferred, people familiar with the matter said.

Though the counteroffer attempts to release the banks from liability with respect to home repossessions, and explicitly states that the release does not include securitisation claims, the language is broad enough in that it could prevent state officials from bringing securitisation claims in the future should they sign up to the agreement.

At the heart of securitisation claims, which involve missteps in how home mortgages were bundled into bonds, are allegations that the banks did not properly maintain and transfer documents from one step in the complicated chain to the next.

If banks are released from liability regarding documentation practices, some industry officials believe they would be able to evade state lawsuits directed at how they bundled the loans into securities.

Robert Sheer observed This proposed a settlement for a pittance of $20 billion is chump change compared what the banks reaped in “direct cash subsidies, virtually zero-interest loans, and the Fed took $2 trillion in bad paper off their hands while the banks exacerbated the banking crisis they had created through additional shady practices.

Matt Taibbi noted, too, that the banks are getting off the hook for really odious offenses:

   The idea behind this federally-guided “settlement” is to concentrate and centralize all the legal exposure accrued by this generation of grotesque banker corruption in one place, put one single price tag on it that everyone can live with, and then stuff the details into a titanium canister before shooting it into deep space.

   This is all about protecting the banks from future enforcement actions on both the civil and criminal sides. The plan is to provide year-after-year, repeat-offending banks like Bank of America with cost certainty… and will also get to know for sure that there are no more criminal investigations in the pipeline.

ship

To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

The White House and AG Miller are doing everything in their power to discredit Schneiderman and block further investigations that could lead to recovering more than 20 pieces of silver.

Sep 05 2011

Holding The Banks Accountable

President Obama’s jettisoning the EPA regulations dominated the Friday news dump. What was buried in the usual media hullabaloo was this:

FHFA Sues 17 Firms to Recover Losses toFannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Apparently the FHFA has found something that this White House hasn’t, the courage to hold the banks accountable for the losses from the sale of mortgage backed securities (MBS) to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suit surpasses the $20 billion settlement that the 50 state AG settlement is reportedly attempting to extract from the banks for a liability release over ALL issues in foreclosure fraud.

The lawsuits cover $105 billion worth of securities, and FHFA wants returns on some portion of the losses taken on the securities, which they attribute to illegal actions by the banks when they sold the MBS (specifically, misrepresentations about the underlying loans). Earlier reports said that the losses for Fannie and Freddie on private-label MBS came to around $30 billion, so that’s probably around what they will ask for. The LA Times story puts it at $41 billion in losses. Whatever the number, this is more than the 50 state AG settlement is reportedly attempting to extract from the banks for a liability release over ALL issues in foreclosure fraud. And this is just a representations and warrants case.

This may derail the 50 state AG attempts at an agreement that absolves banks from any liability:

The biggest banks are already negotiating with the attorneys general of all 50 states to address mortgage abuses. They are looking for a comprehensive settlement that will protect them from future litigation and limit their potential mortgage litigation losses.

“This new litigation could disrupt the AG settlement,” said Anthony Sanders, finance professor at George Mason University and a former mortgage bond strategist.

Banks may be more reluctant to agree to a settlement if they know litigation from other government players could still wallop their capital, he said.

As David Dayen so astutely observes:

. . . . FHFA is just a canary in the coalmine for the losses and the liability that these banks are holding because of their actions in mortgage origination, securitization, and servicing. You cannot have a banking sector with this many liabilities and expect a robust, well-functioning economy. This action is necessary for the rule of law as well as for the health of the nation.

(emphasis mine)

Even better would be some of the people involved being held responsible and sent to prison.