L. Randall Wray: The $7 Trillion Question That Haunts Banks


 

L. Randall Wray

Professor of Economics and Research Director of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability, University of Missouri–Kansas City

 

The $7 Trillion Question That Haunts Banks

Posted: 03/16/2012 4:09 pm

I’ve been writing about the MERS monster since 2010. Here is one of my early pieces.

I suppose it is now safe to reveal that a staffer of Representative Marcy Kaptur put me on the trail of this fraud — in dollar terms it has to be the single biggest fraud in human history. In sheer utter disregard for law, it is certainly the most audacious fraud in Western history. To tell the truth, I had never heard of MERS until she called. If you recall the Michael Moore movie, Rep. Kaptur stood on the steps and told homeowners facing foreclosure to stay in their homes. She was right: the banksters have no legal claim on the homes they are foreclosing. Foreclosure is theft. Any bank that used MERS has no legal claim on property — there are 65 million such mortgages to which no bank has a legal claim to foreclose.

And, to be sure, even those mortgages that were not run through MERS are suspect if they are handled by any of the five biggest servicers. These servicers keep such shoddy records that they cannot be trusted to accurately credit payments. They’ve been adding on fees and penalties that were unwarranted since they cannot keep track of records.

Folks, there are $7 trillion of securitized mortgages. It was (mostly) the securitization process that demanded fraud. Securitization could never have been profitable — it was a flawed way to go about financing homeownership. It was simply too expensive to compete with Jimmy Stewart thrifts. It required fraud to show profits. (As Bill Black always says: fraud is a sure thing. It is always the most profitable way to run a business — until you get caught.)

In addition to the MERS monster, we also know the securities did not meet the “reps and warranties” claimed. The banks that did the securizations will continue to get sued to take back bad mortgages. They are trying to shovel as many of these back to Fannie and Freddie as they can so that Uncle Sam will take the losses — as discussed in my previous blog they are now doing it through sale of servicing rights.

And of course Uncle Ben has helpfully put a lot of them on the Fed’s balance sheet. This is all part of the cover-up to avoid the obvious: all these big banks are massively insolvent as soon as the courts wake up to the fact that the whole damned real estate finance onion is layer upon layer of fraud.

But let us stick to the MERS fraud.

There should be an immediate and complete halt to all foreclosures in the US, and all foreclosures that have been completed over the past decade should be nullified. Yes that will get messy. But continuing with foreclosures will make the mess immeasurably worse. This foreclosure crisis is not going to stop.

No one should buy any bank-owned real estate because it is probable that eventually the US will return to the rule of law. The property will be returned to the rightful owners — those who were illegally kicked out of their houses.

Now that might be a pipe dream, but if the US is not going to be a nation ruled by law then it will not survive.

The biggest banks — including the GSEs — created MERS and proceeded to destroy our nation’s real estate property law. That is not an overstatement. Robo-signing is just one small and inevitable consequence of the fraud. The truth is that foreclosure cannot go through without fraud because the banks do not have the documents to show clear title.

Banks don’t have them because they do not exist.

There are no records because that was MERS’s business model: destroy all records of ownership while speeding the securitization process.

And since the mortgages themselves were often frauds (designing “affordability products” that homeowners could not afford), many would end in delinquency. So MERS was designed to speed the foreclosure process — it would be so much easier to foreclose if you didn’t bother with documents, records, and property law. Just kick the owners out, take the home, sell it, and reboot the whole scam again.

Another whistleblower has come forward, this one from CBO. Lan Pham was fired because she refused to get with the program: the government is supposed to help the banksters cover up their frauds, NOT expose them! She refused. So she was fired. Now she tells her story.

I won’t repeat her entire story — you can read it at Zerohedge. Here are a few quotes from Lan Pham, the CBO whistle-blower:

I was repeatedly pressured by the CBO Assistant Director, Deborah Lucas… to not write nor discuss issues in the banking sector and mortgage markets that might suggest weakness in these sectors and their consequences on the economy and households…

…Issues at the heart of the foreclosure problems pertain to securitization….and the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), which purports to have legal standing on electronic records of ownership on about 65 million…mortgages… MERS…facilitated Wall Street’s ability to expedite the pooling of subprime mortgages into MBSs by bypassing standard ownership transfer procedures as the housing bubble escalated…

The implications have profound financial and economic consequences that would be of compelling interest to Congress and the public, but the CBO sought to silence a discussion of such risks, that in reality have been materializing. These risks put into question the ability of investors or bondholders to make claims on the collateral (the homes) that underlies trillions of dollars in MBSs, the bulk of which are now guaranteed by …Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This affects $10 trillion in residential mortgage debt outstanding, of which $7 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs)…

The CBO dismissing such issues prevents an analysis of the risks, so that the public may be forced again to shoulder the consequences for which they have not been a given a voice or a choice.

Essentially, the chain of title on securitized mortgages appears broken, whether or not there is a foreclosure. This would pertain to most homebuyers in the past 10 years as most mortgages were securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac providing the guarantees, and the largest banks (“The $7 Trillion MBS Problem – Foreclosure Problems and Buybacks”). Recall that these same entities founded MERS, which expedited securitization and purported to have foreclosure authority from its electronic records of ownership on about 65 million mortgages. “Robo-signing” emerged as fraudulent or defective documents were used or created to establish the legal authority to foreclose as MERS faced legal challenges; as of July 22, 2011, foreclosures could no longer be initiated in MERS’ name. At last year’s pace, some figures suggest it could take lenders in New York 62 years to clear their foreclosure inventory, 49 years in New Jersey and a decade in Florida, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

It is unclear how the recent State attorney generals’ agreement to a proposed yet unpublished terms of the $25 billion robo-signing settlement would repair the chain of title issues that continue to mutate. In January 2011, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the foreclosure actions of two banks for lacking proof of clear title, followed by a decision in October 2011 that a buyer who purchased a house that was improperly foreclosed upon does not make the buyer the new owner of the house; the sale does not transfer the property.

A striking little mention fact of the Massachusetts foreclosure case was that the lenders could not show that the two mortgages were part of the securitization pool. Let’s consider a thought exercise. Others have the raised the question: if the entity that has been taking the homeowners’ mortgage payments is not the real owner, what happens when the true owner(s) of the mortgage shows up? Are homeowners on the hook again for those ‘missed’ mortgage payments? It was not uncommon for mortgages to be sold multiple times, and it is my understanding that loans were intentionally not given unique identifiers as it moved from origination or purchase through to securitization.

This is what I’ve been arguing since 2010. This will not go away — no matter how much the Administration, the Congress, and the banks try to cover it up.

Cross-posted from EconoMonitor

L. Randall Wray: The $7 Trillion Question That Haunts Banks

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Honor system for foreclosure paperwork has led to illegal Colorado seizures, lawyer surmises – The Denver Post


http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_20160083/honor-system-foreclosure-paperwork-has-led-illegal-colorado

Posted:   03/13/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
March 13, 2012 3:50 PM GMT Updated:   03/13/2012 09:50:25 AM MDT

By David Migoya
The Denver Postdenverpost.com

(Associated Press file photo)

Thousands of Colorado homes were taken in foreclosure in recent years by banks that probably never had the right to do so because no one bothered to challenge the process, said a lawyer who worked for the state’s biggest foreclosure law firm.

Lawyers often blindly sign a document attesting that the bank they represent has the right to foreclose — allowable under Colorado law — without ever actually seeing the original loan documents, attorney Keith Gantenbein said. He worked at Castle Stawiarski, where more foreclosure cases originate than any other law firm statewide.

Gantenbein said he and other lawyers signed “tens of thousands” of documents known as statements of qualified holder. The papers certify lenders’ right to foreclose, generally with little more than an e-mail from a bank or loan servicer telling the lawyers to file the case.

“The discomfort was you had no way to verify the information they provided, and we found many bank errors, and you’re not 100 percent sure you had the right to foreclose,” Gantenbein said Monday. “It happened so frequently that there has to be a large percentage of homeowners who lost their homes to the wrong people.”

Gantenbein, 31, is expected to appear today before a state House committee taking testimony on a bill designed to end the practice and require banks to provide original loan papers before they can foreclose.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, also would require judges to certify that foreclosing lenders have the legal right to take a property. Currently, they only attest that a homeowner is in default of a note and is not serving in the military before ordering a foreclosed home to be sold at public auction.

HB 1156 is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. today in the Economic and Business Development Committee.

Gantenbein is the first lawyer involved in the foreclosure process to speak publicly. He is among a number of attorneys who have told The Denver Post they were uncomfortable with signing documents attesting a bank’s right to foreclose without actually knowing whether it was true.

“As an inside attorney, … Keith describes the pressure to foreclose quickly and efficiently, not always dotting the I’s,” McCann said. “I admire his bravery in coming forward to help correct a broken and unfair system.”

Gantenbein said Colorado’s century-old public-trustee system of foreclosures — unique in the nation — has been manipulated so often that it’s no longer the unbiased process that was intended.

“I just feel the process is tilted unfavorably to the lender and that borrowers are simply being taken advantage of with a system that isn’t transparent,” said Gantenbein, who estimates he signed as many as 60 qualified-holder statements each day during the more than two years he worked at the Castle law firm.

Lawrence Castle did not respond for comment.

“The foreclosure process in Colorado is one of blind faith,” Gantenbein said. “Colorado’s current laws unfairly allow lenders and law firms and attorneys to railroad through the foreclosure process and hide or gloss over substantive issues.”

The qualified-holder process is legal, created in 2002 and 2006 in paragraphs buried deep inside legislation designed to shore up Colorado’s foreclosure laws.

Castle was among a group of lawyers specializing in foreclosures who helped draft the laws, which were then backed by an association representing the state’s public trustees.

In a Denver Post story published in September on how the law was drafted, several trustees said the qualified-holder section was slipped in without their knowledge. Others said they believed the bill related to battling mortgage fraud, which was another aspect to it.

Gantenbein said it was passed “solely to make foreclosures faster and easier.” The reason: “To get paid faster. It’s all about the money.”

Trustees, many appointed by the governor, by law are required to oversee the foreclosure process fairly and without bias.

Before the change, banks were required to file original loan documents, and homeowners had the right to challenge a bank before a judge.

David Migoya: 303-954-1506 or dmigoya@denverpost.com

Honor system for foreclosure paperwork has led to illegal Colorado seizures, lawyer surmises – The Denver Post

Eleventh Circuit Overturns District Court on FDCPA Dismissal, Rubin Lublin is a Debt Collector and Violated FDCPA!!!


http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca11/10-14618/10-14618-2012-03-15.html

Justia.com Opinion Summary: Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of his civil action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692. The district court concluded that plaintiff’s claim was covered by the FDCPA but that he did not allege acts that violated the FDCPA. Accepting plaintiff’s allegations as true and construing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the statement on the May 2009 notice that BAC was plaintiff’s “creditor” was a false representation and was made by a “debt collector” as defined by section 1692a. Therefore, the complaint stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the FDCPA and the judgment of the district court was vacated and remanded.

Bourff v. Lublin, LLC :: Eleventh Circuit :: US Courts of Appeals Cases :: US Federal Case Law :: US Case Law :: US Law :: Justia

Guilford County, North Carolina Register of Deeds Want The Mess Cleaned Up!


http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/uploadedFiles/Reuters_Content/2012/03_-_March/guilfordvmers.pdf

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE
SUPERIOR COURT DIVISION

NATURE AND SUMMARY OF THIS ACTION
1. This lawsuit seeks to have Defendants clean up the mess they created in
Guilford County’s public property records and to hold Defendants accountable for their unfair and deceptive trade practices.

COUNTY OF GUILFORD GUILFORD COUNTY, ex rel. JEFF L.
THIGPEN, GUILFORD COUNTY  REGISTER OF DEEDS,
Plaintiff,
v.
LENDER PROCESSING SERVICES, INC.;
DOCX, LLC; LPS DEFAULT SOLUTIONS,
INC.; MERSCORP HOLDINGS, INC.;
MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC
REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC.; WELLS
FARGO BANK, N.A.; WELLS FARGO
HOME MORTGAGE, INC.; BANK OF
AMERICA, N.A.; JPMORGAN CHASE
BANK, N.A.; CHASE HOME FINANCE
LLC; EMC MORTGAGE CORPORATION;
MIDFIRST BANK; SAND CANYON
CORPORATION; CITI RESIDENTIAL
LENDING, INC.; GREEN TREE
SERVICING, LLC; AMERIQUEST
MORTGAGE COMPANY; USAA
FEDERAL SAVINGS BANK; AMERICAN
HOME MORTGAGE SERVICING, INC.;
MOREQUITY, INC.; U.S. BANK
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION;
EQUICREDIT CORPORATION OF
AMERICA; NATIONSCREDIT
FINANCIAL SERVICES CORP.; ARGENT
MORTGAGE COMPANY, LLC; THE
BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON; THE
BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON TRUST
COMPANY, N.A.; CAPITAL ONE, N.A.;
FIRST FRANKLIN FINANCIAL CORP.;
NAVY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION; and
WEICHERT FINANCIAL SERVICES;
Defendants.

Welfare Drug Testing Bill Withdrawn After Amended To Include Testing Lawmakers


Arthur Delaneyarthur@huffingtonpost.com

Huffington Post

 Welfare Drug Test

Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, speaks on a motion to fine absent Democrats at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

A Republican member of the Indiana General Assembly withdrew his bill to create a pilot program for drug testing welfare applicants Friday after one of his Democratic colleagues amended the measure to require drug testing for lawmakers.

“There was an amendment offered today that required drug testing for legislators as well and it passed, which led me to have to then withdraw the bill,” said Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), sponsor of the original welfare drug testing bill.

The Supreme Court ruled drug testing for political candidates unconstitutional in 1997, striking down a Georgia law. McMillin said he withdrew his bill so he could reintroduce it on Monday with a lawmaker drug testing provision that would pass constitutional muster.

“I’ve only withdrawn it temporarily,” he told HuffPost, stressing he carefully crafted his original bill so that it could survive a legal challenge. Last year a federal judge, citing the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure, struck down a Florida law that required blanket drug testing of everyone who applied for welfare.

McMillin’s bill would overcome constitutional problems, he said, by setting up a tiered screening scheme in which people can opt-out of random testing. Those who decline random tests would only be screened if they arouse “reasonable suspicion,” either by their demeanor, by being convicted of a crime, or by missing appointments required by the welfare office.

In the past year Republican lawmakers have pursued welfare drug testing in more than 30 states and in Congress, and some bills have even targeted people who claim unemployment insurance and food stamps, despite scanty evidence the poor and jobless are disproportionately on drugs. Democrats in several states have countered with bills to require drug testing elected officials. Indiana state Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) introduced just such an amendment on Friday.

“After it passed, Rep. McMillin got pretty upset and pulled his bill,” Dvorak said. “If anything, I think it points out some of the hypocrisy. … If we’re going to impose standards on drug testing, then it should apply to everybody who receives government money.”

Dvorak said McMillin was mistaken to think testing the legislature would be unconstitutional, since the stricken Georgia law targeted candidates and not people already holding office.

McMillin, for his part, said he’s coming back with a new bill on Monday, lawmaker testing included. He said he has no problem submitting to a test himself.

“I would think legislators that are here who are responsible for the people who voted them in, they should be more than happy to consent,” he said. “Give me the cup right now and I will be happy to take the test.”

FBI Chief Describes GPS Problems Created By Supreme Court Ruling


INVESTIGATORS CONNECT Group News | LinkedIn

Written by Pursuit Wire|03/12/2012|0 Comments

Filed in: Law Enforcement, Legislation, Technology

You remember that one court ruling that forced the FBI to shut down every GPS receiver they currently were using to track their suspects? well, one of the problems was that the FBI was unable to find the transmitters. But the same Supreme Court ruling that bars police from installing GPS technology to track suspects without first getting authorization for a judge is creating more “financial” problems for the FBI.

The agency has been forced deactivate its GPS tracking devices in some investigations, FBI director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

Mueller told a congressional panel that the bureau has turned off a substantial number of GPS units and is using surveillance by agents instead.

“Putting a physical surveillance team out with six, eight, 12 persons is tremendously time intensive,” Mueller told a House Appropriations subcommittee. The court ruling “will inhibit our ability to use this in a number of surveillances where it has been tremendously beneficial.”

The Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of the measure in January

 

Full story on CBS DC:  http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/03/07/fbi-chief-describes-gps-problems-created-by-supreme-court-ruling/

California asks for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac foreclosure hiatus | Share on LinkedIn


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Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris during a visit last year to the East L.A. Community Corp. in Boyle Hights on a tour highlighting her work cracking down on unfair mortgage practices. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

By Alejandro Lazo

February 27, 2012, 2:55 p.m.

California’s attorney general has asked for a suspension of foreclosures on loans controlled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris in a letter asked the regulator of the government-controlled mortgage titans to halt foreclosures in California until the agency has completed a “thorough, transparent analysis of whether principal reduction is in the best interests of struggling homeowners as well as taxpayers.”

It is not the first time that Harris has tangled with the giants — last year she sued the two mortgage giants after they refused to answer subpoenas regarding their mortgage and foreclosure practices. That case remains pending.

Harris has also called on Edward DeMarco, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency that regulates Fannie and Freddie, to step down, accusing him of not doing enough for borrowers.

Harris’ request for a foreclosure pause comes on the heels of a multistate mortgage settlement that will require the nation’s largest mortgage servicers to reduce principal for certain borrowers. California has secured $12 billion in principal reduction and short sales from those banks, but Fannie and Freddie are not part of that deal.

Harris’ office sees the two giants as key to getting the housing market back on track, estimating that more than 60% of outstanding loans in the Golden State are controlled by them. But DeMarco has resisted principal reductions, which is the writing-down of mortgages of borrowers, arguing that the results of those reductions are not worth the costs.

The FHFA has overseen Fannie and Freddie since the two mortgage giants were placed under government control in 2008 as the financial crisis picked up steam. Calls to the agency were not returned.