RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market By Rob Davies


RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market
By Editor August 16, 2018
http://www.theeventchronicle.com/finanace/rbs-bankers-joked-about-destroying-the-us-housing-market/


A boarded up building in Cleveland, Ohio, in January 2008. In the build up to the crisis mortgage lenders were incentivised to make as many loans as possible. Photograph: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Transcripts of pre-financial crisis conversations show senior bankers’ disregard for customers

By Rob Davies

RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market after making millions by trading loans that staff described as “total fucking garbage”, according to transcripts released as part of a $4.9bn (£3.8bn) settlement with US prosecutors.

Details of internal conversations at the bank emerged just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis, which saw RBS rescued with a £45bn bailout from the UK government.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) criticised RBS over its trade in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) – financial instruments underwritten by risky home loans that are cited as pivotal in the global banking crash.

It said the bank made “false and misleading representations” to investors in order to sell more of the RMBS, which are forecast to result in losses of $55bn to investors.

Transcripts published alongside the settlement reveal the attitude among senior bankers at RBS towards some of the products they sold.

The bank’s chief credit officer in the US referred to selling investors products backed by “total fucking garbage” loans with “fraud [that]was so rampant … [and]all random”.

He added that “the loans are all disguised to, you know, look okay kind of … in a data file.”

The DoJ said senior RBS executives “showed little regard for their misconduct and, internally, made light of it”.

In one exchange, as the extent of the contagion in the banking industry was becoming clear, RBS’ head trader received a call from a friend who said: “[I’m] sure your parents never imagine[d]they’d raise a son who [would]destroy the housing market in the richest nation on the planet.”

He responded: “I take exception to the word ‘destroy.’ I am more comfortable with ‘severely damage.’”

Another senior banker explained to a colleague that risky loans were the result of a broken mortgage industry that meant lenders were “raking in the money” and were incentivised to make as many loans as possible.

Employees who might raise the alarm about the riskiness of such lending “don’t give a shit because they’re not getting paid”, he said.

The bank made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from selling RMBS, the DoJ said, while disguising the risk they posed to investors, which included a group of nuns who lost 96% of their investment.

By October 2007, as signs of stress began to show in the banking system, RBS’ chief credit officer wrote to colleagues expressing his true feelings about the burgeoning volume of subprime loans in the housing market.

He said loans were being pushed by “every possible … style of scumbag”, adding that it was “like quasi-organised crime”.

“Nobody seems to care,” he added.
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The DoJ criticised RBS’ failure to do due diligence on the loans it was packaging, saying the bank feared it would lose out to rivals if it performed stricter tests.

One analyst at the lender referred to the bank’s due diligence procedures as “just a bunch of bullshit”, according to the transcripts.

When the bank became concerned about the poor quality of loans and started imposing tighter due diligence, one senior banker complained, saying: “Oh, God. Does anyone want to make money around here any more?”

RBS expected to make $20m from one deal that involved trading particularly risky loans, but faced resistance from the bank’s chief credit officer.

A senior executive responded to the concerns by telling the bank’s head trader: “Please don’t fuckin’ blow this one. We need every dollar we can get our hands on.”

Internal conversations between bankers also offer some insight into their growing realisation of the poor quality of the loans the bank owned and sold.

In September 2007, one trader referred to an appraisal of loans as giving “pretty shitty results”.

The transcripts were released by the DoJ as it confirmed the details of the settlement with the bank over its trading in RMBS.

RBS said: “Under the terms of the settlement, RBS disputes the allegations but will not set out a legal defence, while the settlement does not constitute a judicial finding.”

Certainty over the scale of the settlement will allow the bank to pay its first dividend in a decade this year.

The dividend is worth £240m and the Treasury will receive £149m as RBS is still 62%-owned by the government.

Ross McEwan, RBS chief executive, said: “This settlement dates back to the period between 2005 and 2007. There is no place for the sort of unacceptable behaviour alleged by the DoJ at the bank we are building today.”

He added that the bank could now “focus our energy on serving our customers better”.

But league tables published by the Competition and Markets Authority on Wednesday placed RBS joint bottom for customer service, with fewer than half of customers saying they would recommend the bank to a friend.

RBS will have to publish the results in branches, on its website and mobile app from today.

This article (RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market) was originally published on The Guardian and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.

Pay Attention! Look at the money trail AFTER the foreclosure sale, by Neil Garfield


Pay Attention! Look at the money trail AFTER the foreclosure sale
Posted on July 3, 2018 by Neil Garfield
https://livinglies.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/pay-attention-look-at-the-money-trail-after-the-foreclosure-sale/

My confidence has never been higher that the handling of money after a foreclosure sale will reveal the fraudulent nature of most “foreclosures” initiated not on behalf of the owner of the debt but in spite of the the owner(s) of the debt.

It has long been obvious to me that the money trail is separated from the paper trail practically “at birth” (origination). It is an obvious fact that the owner of the debt is always someone different than the party seeking foreclosure, the alleged servicer of the debt, the alleged trust, and the alleged trustee for a nonexistent trust. When you peek beneath the hood of this scam, you can see it for yourself.

Real case in point: BONY appears as purported trustee of a purported trust. Who did that? The lawyers, not BONY. The foreclosure is allowed and the foreclosure sale takes place. The winning “bid” for the property is $230k.

Here is where it gets real interesting. The check is sent to BONY who supposedly is acting on behalf of the trust, right. Wrong. BONY is acting on behalf of Chase and Bayview loan servicing. How do we know? Because physical possession of the check made payable to BONY was forwarded to Chase, Bayview or both of them. How do we know that? Because Chase and Bayview both endorsed the check made out to BONY depositing the check for credit in a bank account probably at Chase in the name of Bayview.

OK so we have the check made out to BONY and TWO endorsements — one by Chase and one by Bayview supposedly — and then an account number that might be a Chase account and might be a Bayview account — or, it might be some other account altogether. So the question who actually received the $230k in an account controlled by them and then, what did they do with it. I suspect that even after the check was deposited “somewhere” that money was forwarded to still other entities or even people.

The bid was $230k and the check was made payable to BONY. But the fact that it wasn’t deposited into any BONY account much less a BONY trust account corroborates what I have been saying for 12 years — that there is no bank account for the trust and the trust does not exist. If the trust existed the handling of the money would look very different OR the participants would be going to jail.

And that means NOW you have evidence that this is the case since BONY obviously refused to do anything with the check, financially, and instead just forwarded it to either Chase or Bayview or perhaps both, using copies and processing through Check 21.

What does this mean? It means that the use of the BONY name was a sham, since the trust didn’t exist, no trust account existed, no assets had ever been entrusted to BONY as trustee and when they received the check they forwarded it to the parties who were pulling the strings even if they too were neither servicers nor owners of the debt.

Even if the trust did exist and there really was a trust officer and there really was a bank account in the name of the trust, BONY failed to treat it as a trust asset.

So either BONY was directly committing breach of fiduciary duty and theft against the alleged trust and the alleged trust beneficiaries OR BONY was complying with the terms of their contract with Chase to rent the BONY name to facilitate the illusion of a trust and to have their name used in foreclosures (as long as they were protected by indemnification by Chase who would pay for any sanctions or judgments against BONY if the case went sideways for them).

That means the foreclosure judgment and sale should be vacated. A nonexistent party cannot receive a remedy, judicially or non-judicially. The assertions made on behalf of the named foreclosing party (the trust represented by BONY “As trustee”) were patently false — unless these entities come up with more fabricated paperwork showing a last minute transfer “from the trust” to Chase, Bayview or both.

The foreclosure is ripe for attack.

Spread the word

FORECLOSURE HELL


I had been doing so much better about keeping up with my blogs, until about this last week. I had not gotten back to posting as much as I had in the past, but was doing much better.

I have to admit though, every month, beginning the week before foreclosure hell (the day they auction the homes foreclosed upon), have been particularly hellish.

I guess for a while, no one I know was being foreclosed upon. But beginning last month, my friends began being sold at auction again. It had been a whole year until just these last couple of months. Then all of the sudden, properties that the banks had lost interest in, out of the blue, and with little or no warning, were sold at auction.

We all managed to stop two of the sales, those two were cancelled, but last month, one was lost to foreclosure, and it took a lot of work to get cancelled, the two that were cancelled.

So, even though there may not be the number of foreclosures every month that there had been for a long time, looks like the banks have managed to get lined up, these companies, that will purchase damn near any house at auction. These companies that want to turn around and rent you your house they just purchased at foreclosure.

I told everyone, back in 2008-2009 when Goldman Sachs’ sorry ass said that “only the rich should own houses, everyone else should be renters”, that this is what could be expected. Yes, it took another 8 years for it to happen to this scale, but it is here, and it won’t be going away, till they get every one of our homes.

I have watched foreclosure sales every month since around 2006, and all the properties that were fought for, and the banks, just kind of fizzled away without a lot of fuss, homes that they realized would be close to impossible to get the foreclosed upon owner to leave, now that they can work it out to where these rent home companies, are the ones that has to get rid of the previous owners of the properties.

The banks see this as minor housekeeping, which they don’t mind at all.

When I read this article, I kept hearing that song “Take It To The Limit One More Time”! They’ve changed the words “Sub-Prime” to “Non-Prime” and we re going to take it to the limit one more time…


Subprime mortgages make a comeback—with a new name and soaring demand
The subprime mortgage industry vanished after the Great Recession but is now being reinvented as the nonprime market.
Carrington Mortgage is now offering mortgages to borrowers with “less-than-perfect credit.”
Demand from both borrowers and investors is exceeding expectations.
Diana Olick | @DianaOlick
Published 10:45 AM ET Thu, 12 April 2018 Updated 1:54 PM ET Thu, 12 April 2018
CNBC.com
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/12/sub-prime-mortgages-morph-into-non-prime-loans-and-demand-soars.html
Subprime stages comeback as ‘non-prime’ loans Subprime stages comeback as ‘non-prime’ loans
1:41 PM ET Thu, 12 April 2018 | 01:28

They were blamed for the biggest financial disaster in a century. Subprime mortgages – home loans to borrowers with sketchy credit who put little to no skin in the game. Following the epic housing crash, they disappeared, due to strong, new regulation, and zero demand from investors who were badly burned. Barely a decade later, they’re coming back with a new name — nonprime — and, so far, some new standards.

California-based Carrington Mortgage Services, a midsized lender, just announced an expansion into the space, offering loans to borrowers, “with less-than-perfect credit.” Carrington will originate and service the loans, but it will also securitize them for sale to investors.

“We believe there is actually a market today in the secondary market for people who want to buy nonprime loans that have been properly underwritten,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of Carrington Mortgage Holdings. “We’re not going back to the bad old days of ninja lending, when people with no jobs, no income, and no assets were getting loans.”

A home improvement contractor works on a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here’s how much homeowners could cash out in home equity
2:32 PM ET Mon, 2 April 2018 | 01:14
All loans will not be the same


Sharga said Carrington will manually underwrite each loan, assessing the individual risks. But it will allow its borrowers to have FICO credit scores as low as 500. The current average for agency-backed mortgages is in the mid-700s. Borrowers can take out loans of up to $1.5 million on single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums. They can also do cash-out refinances, where borrowers tap extra equity in their homes, up to $500,000. Recent credit events, like a foreclosure, bankruptcy or a history of late payments are acceptable.

All loans, however, will not be the same for all borrowers. If a borrower is higher risk, a higher down payment will be required, and the interest rate will likely be higher.

“What we’re talking about is underwriting that goes back to common sense sort of practices. If you have risk, you offset risk somewhere else,” added Sharga, while touting, “We probably are going to have the widest range of products for people with challenging credit in the marketplace.”

Carrington is not alone in the space. Angel Oak began offering and securitizing nonprime mortgages two years ago and has done six nonprime securitizations so far. It recently finalized its biggest securitization yet — $329 million, comprising 905 mortgages with an average amount of about $363,000. Just more than 80 percent of the loans are nonprime.

A ‘who’s who of Wall Street’
Investors in Angel Oak’s nonprime securitizations are, “a who’s who of Wall Street,” according to company representatives, citing hedge funds and insurance companies. Angel Oak’s securitizations now total $1.3 billion in mortgage debt.

Angel Oak, along with Caliber Home Loans, have been the main players in the space, securitizing relatively few loans. That is clearly about to change in a big way, as demand is rising.

“We believe that more competition is positive for the marketplace because there is strong enough demand for the product to support multiple originators,” said Lauren Hedvat, managing director, capital markets at Angel Oak. “Additionally, the more competitors there are, the wider the footprint becomes, which should open the door for more potential borrowers.”

Big banks are also getting in the game, both investing in the securities and funding the lenders, according to Sharga.

“It’s large financial institutions. A lot of people with private capital sitting on the sidelines, who are very interested in this market and believe that as long as the risks are managed well, and companies like ours are particularly good at managing credit risk, that it’s a good investment opportunity,” he said.

As the economy improves, and rents continue to rise, more Americans are trying to become homeowners, but the scars of the Great Recession still stand in the way. One-fifth of consumers today still have very low credit scores, often disqualifying them from obtaining a mortgage in today’s tight lending market.

Relaxed lending standards
Last summer, Fannie Mae announced it would relax its lending standards for prime loans, allowing borrowers with higher debt and lower credit scores to obtain loans without additional risk overlays, such as large down payments and a year’s worth of cash reserves.

Fannie Mae raised its debt-to-income (DTI) limit from 45 percent to 50 percent. DTI is the amount of total debt a borrower can have compared to his or her income. As a result, demand from buyers with higher debt exceeded all expectations. The share of high DTI loans jumped from 6 percent in January 2017 to nearly 20 percent by the end of February 2018, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

“From January to July 2017, Fannie purchased 80,467 loans with DTI ratios between 45 and 50 percent. But from August 2017 to February 2018, Fannie purchased 181,911 loans in the same DTI bucket. This increase of more than 100,000 loans in just seven months exceeded our estimate (85,000 additional Fannie loans annually) and Fannie’s expectations.” – Urban Institute

The mortgage industry expectation was that Fannie Mae would mitigate the additional risk with other factors, like a higher necessary credit score, but that was not added. The mortgage insurers balked, since they would be on the hook for the risk, so last month Fannie Mae “recalibrated” its risk assessment criteria again.

“We got a bigger response than we thought we were going to, so we dialed back to make sure we were in the right spot where our governance kicks in to make sure we’re not taking excessive risk,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist.

Millennials carry more debt
The outsized demand from borrowers with more debt as well as demand for nonprime mortgages in the private sector show just how many borrowers today would like to become homeowners but are frozen out of the mortgage market.

Millennials, the largest homebuying cohort today, have much higher levels of student debt than previous generations. Members of older generations who went through foreclosures during the housing crisis or other hits to their credit are still struggling with lower FICO scores.

In addition, credit tightened up dramatically. In fact, between 2009 and 2015, tighter credit accounted for just more than 6 million “missing” loans, according to research by Laurie Goodman at the Urban Institute. These are mortgages that would have been granted under more normal historical underwriting standards.

The rebirth of the nonprime market is focused on these missing mortgages. The hope is that the industry will also focus on better standards of underwriting and not take risk to the levels it once did, levels that resulted in disaster.

jmdenison https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/29589295/posts/15035 Very Good MERS article from Mandelman



https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/29589295/posts/15035
jmdenison
MaryGSykes.com

From GG: the good ship MERS may be going down…for you folks facing those robo signing/false accountings foreclosure cases, read on
23h ago
http://mandelman.ml-implode.com/2011/02/new-bankruptcy-court-decision-sounds-the-alarm-%E2%80%93-the-uss-mers-is-going-down/

This is a pretty funny article about MERS and how it is mostly a full of it mortgage/note handling process that bilks county recorder out of millions in recording mortgage docts per year, plus it can often create havoc in foreclosure/assignment/purchase cases.
read on.
New Bankruptcy Court Decision Sounds the Alarm – The USS MERS is Going Down

Preface…

Before I jump into this decision by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge in New York, I just want to acknowledge that I very rarely write about MERS. And it’s not an accident; I’ve chosen not to do so… until now, anyway.

Perhaps I’ve been wrong not to cover the MERS debacle in greater detail, but the reason I haven’t is that I view some of the issues related to MERS as kind of… well, pedestrian… not to put too fine a point on it.

Other than a few good decisions by courts that have barred MERS from foreclosing, it just seemed to me that the problems presented by MERS could be fixed, and therefore I didn’t want homeowners who read my column to put too much stock in their loan being a MERS loan, as doing much for them if they find themselves at risk of foreclosure.

This decision has done a lot to change my view of MERS and the role it plays in foreclosures. The judge in this case presents a damn strong, if non-binding case why MERS may in fact be a much larger problem than I thought it was.

According to consumer bankruptcy attorney and nationally known foreclosure defense guru, Max Gardner…

“This case may well be the final dagger in the deep dark heart of the MERS business model. MERS has fired its President, R.K. Arnold, and may well terminate its Secretary, William Hultman, but MERS cannot fix the systematic and fundamentally flawed legal issues clearly and succinctly identified by the Court in Agard.”
And so… without further delay, I present to you… the “Agard Decision”.

~~~

The State: New York

The Case: In re: Ferrel L. Agard, Debtor, Chapter 7

The Court: United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of New York

The Judge: The Honorable Robert E. Grossman

The Set Up: U.S. Bank, as the trustee for one First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-FF12, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2006-FF12… which all just means that we’re talking about a REMIC trust containing a securitized pool of mortgages… moves to obtain relief from the automatic stay created by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, in order to complete the foreclosure of Ferrel Agard’s home. New York State courts had already ruled and a foreclosure judgment was issued, so now U.S. Bank as trustee just needed to finish things out by obtaining relief from the automatic stay so they can proceed with selling the home.

Records show that the bankruptcy trustee expected a routine, no assets case… file report, collect fee, end of case. U.S. Bank, represented by its loan servicer, Select Portfolio Servicing (“SPS”), who was in turn represented by Buffalo’s most infamous foreclosure mill, Steven J. Baum PC, must have thought about the same… a straight forward foreclosure case, lets get rid of the deadbeats and be home by dinner.

But, in today’s fast changing world of Fraudclosuregate, things are not always as they appear, and crap that flew yesterday may not fly again tomorrow.

The Opposition: On October 27, 2010, the borrower’s attorney filed a single page document on which the type was double-spaced. It was a “partial opposition to the motion for relief from stay” that U.S. Bank had filed, and it suggested to the judge that perhaps there might be some sort of small problem with the MERS assignment. It also, in so many words, posited: Who the heck was Select Portfolio Services and why did they have any role in the case anyway?

After that, one might say… the fit hit the shan.

The Hearing: At a hearing held on November 15, 2010, the judge must have more than just hinted that he was going to look very carefully at this whole MERS thing, because he suggested that the parties might want to consider filing some real legal briefs on the subject, and he made it clear that he would be holding a real hearing on the issues on December 15, 2010, just one month down the road.

The Response: All of a sudden nothing was at it seemed just days before… SPS asks the court for more time and rushes out for reinforcements, bringing in a “tall building” law firm from New York City to replace the relative pikers at Baum’s Mill. The newly retained big city lawyers file a major brief in support of the U.S. Bank/SPS position on December 8th.

Then, on December 9th, MERS shows up, metaphorically at least with lights flashing and sirens blaring, to file an “emergency motion to intervene,” crying in sheer panic that their entire national business model is being attacked and that the result can be nothing less than the end of the world as we all know it.

They bring in a sworn declaration from MERS Treasurer and Corporate Secretary, William Hultman on December 10th, that explains what an entirely fabulous and utterly wonderful invention MERS actually is, and then… I suppose afraid that the one Hultman declaration just might not carry the day they show up with yet another declaration from MERS Treasurer and Corporate Secretary, William Hultman on December 23rd.

In an effort to keep things straight as related to the declarations, we’ll call that one: “Why Everyone Should Love MERS More Than Life Itself… The Sequel.”

The judge then begins to dig into the matter. Perhaps he was waiting for a case such as this one, or perhaps some other forces were in play, but regardless… for MERS… this was the wrong judge on the wrong day.

The Decision: Judge Grossman devotes the first half of his opinion to discussing whether he even has the legal authority to look into how U.S. Bank obtained this mortgage in the first place, since it already had obtained a foreclosure judgment in state court, and because there is an irritating (to Federal judges) and arcane Rooker-Feldman doctrine that prohibits federal courts from interfering with state court judgments.

Alas, our intrepid judge concludes on page 18 of his decision that Rooker-Feldman does in fact preclude him from looking further into the issues that underlie the U.S. Bank foreclosure judgment. And, as a result, Judge Grossman decides that he must grant U.S. Bank’s motion for relief from the bankruptcy automatic stay so that the trustee can complete the foreclosure.

Now, were we talking about most judges, that would represent the end of this proverbial road… the opinion would be dated and signed and I would not be writing about the case now. But we’re not talking about most judges… we’re talking about the Honorable Judge Robert E. Grossman of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and he’s apparently not a judge with which one should trifle.

He’s got MERS in his crosshairs, apparently exactly where he wants them, and in the 18 pages that follow his decision to grant the relief from the automatic stay he goes after MERS mercilessly. Attorney Thomas Cox of Portland, Maine, who you may remember from the “GMAC uses robo-signers deposition” that brought foreclosures to a standstill last fall, says that in his opinion…

“He (Judge Grossman) does the most thorough and competent analysis of the MERS charade that I have seen, basically concluding that the entire MERS business model does not comply with our laws, and that he will no longer accept MERS mortgage assignments in his court room.”
It’s a decision that was a delight to see.”</em>
Now, clearly this is a decision that’s worth reading for one’s self… Judge Grossman is one heck of a writer and not one to play patty-cake with MERS or those of the banking persuasion, but I thought I’d at least provide the overview of the decision with “training wheels” for those who aren’t of the mind to wade through the entire text of the decision themselves, or who find these things next to impossible to read and understand.

Here’s the overview of the Memorandum Decision in its entirety… with my clarifications added for those who find them valuable. If you’re a lawyer or just an uber-smartee, just scroll on down to the imbedded document for a copy of Judge Grossman’s decision in its entirety.

The movant is Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (“Select Portfolio” or “Movant”), as servicer for U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee for First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-FF12, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2006-FF12 (“U.S. Bank”)

Okay, for now just remember that the servicer is the “Movant.” The rest I already covered above at the very beginning. U.S. Bank N.A. is the trustee for the First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust… blah, blah, blah… got it? Good, let’s move on…

The Debtor filed limited opposition to the Motion contesting the Movant’s standing to seek relief from stay. The Debtor argues that the only interest U.S. Bank holds in the underlying mortgage was received by way of an assignment from the Mortgage Electronic Registration System a/k/a MERS, as a “nominee” for the original lender.

The Debtor’s argument raises a fundamental question as to whether MERS had the legal authority to assign a valid and enforceable interest in the subject mortgage. Because U.S. Bank’s rights can be no greater than the rights as transferred by its assignor – MERS – the Debtor argues that the Movant, acting on behalf of U.S. Bank, has failed to establish that it holds an enforceable right against the Property.1.

This references the single page, double-spaced document I described that was filed by the borrower’s attorney, called a “partial opposition to the motion top relief from stay”. It raised some questions that the judge would later seek to answer.

The Movant’s initial response to the Debtor’s opposition was that MERS’s authority to assign the mortgage to U.S. Bank is derived from the mortgage itself, which allegedly grants to MERS its status as both “nominee” of the mortgagee and “mortgagee of record.”

Judge Grossman is going to attack this line of reasoning head on in the last 18 pages of his decision. Among many other things, you’ll see him say… “Aside from the inappropriate reliance upon the statutory definition of “mortgagee,” MERS’s position that it can be both the mortgagee and an agent of the mortgagee is absurd, at best.” And there’s a whole lot more where that came from… read on…

The Movant later supplemented its papers taking the position that U.S. Bank is a creditor with standing to seek relief from stay by virtue of a judgment of foreclosure and sale entered in its favor by the state court prior to the filing of the bankruptcy.

The Movant argues that the judgment of foreclosure is a final adjudication as to U.S. Bank’s status as a secured creditor and therefore the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits this Court from looking behind the judgment and questioning whether U.S. Bank has proper standing before this Court by virtue of a valid assignment of the mortgage from MERS.

This is the part that caused Judge Grossman to back down in this particular instance and allow the relief from automatic stay, thus allowing the foreclosure to proceed. Basically, he concludes that he’s not allowed to question the facts that underlie the foreclosure judgment that was previously granted by the state court.

There is also an important footnote (“1”) on the second page that reads as follows:

The Debtor also questions whether Select Portfolio has the authority and the standing to seek relief from the automatic stay. The Movant argues that Select Portfolio has standing to bring the Motion based upon its status as “servicer” of the Mortgage, and attaches an affidavit of a vice president of Select Portfolio attesting to that servicing relationship.

Case law has established that a mortgage servicer has standing to seek relief from the automatic stay as a party in interest. See, e.g., Greer v. O’Dell, 305 F.3d 1297 (11th Cir. 2002); In re Woodberry, 383 B.R. 373 (Bankr. D.S.C. 2008).

This presumes, however, that the lender for whom the servicer acts validly holds the subject note and mortgage. Thus, this Decision will focus on whether U.S. Bank validly holds the subject note and mortgage.

I think the judge is saying that servicers do have standing to seek relief from an automatic stay that results from a borrower filing bankruptcy, but that such standing presumes that the lender being represented by the servicer validly holds the note and mortgage, and that the decision will address that issue.

Okay, you’ve got that part pretty much down, right? Then the decision goes on to say…

The Court received extensive briefing and oral argument from MERS, as an intervenor in these proceedings, which go beyond the arguments presented by the Movant.
This just says that MERS showed up with all guns blazing, arguing that MERS represents all that is right, good and just in the world. The judge isn’t buying though…

In addition to the rights created by the mortgage documents themselves MERS argues that the terms of its membership agreement with the original lender and its successors in interest, as well as New York state agency laws, give MERS the authority to assign the mortgage.

MERS argues that it holds legal title to mortgages for its member/lenders as both “nominee” and “mortgagee of record.” As such, it argues that any member/lender, which holds a note secured by real property, that assigns that note to another member by way of entry into the MERS database, need not also assign the mortgage because legal title to the mortgage remains in the name of MERS, as agent for any member/lender, which holds the corresponding note.

MERS’s position is that if a MERS member directs it to provide a written assignment of the mortgage, MERS has the legal authority, as an agent for each of its members, to assign mortgages to the member/lender currently holding the note as reflected in the MERS database.

Judge Grossman is going to examine all of these arguments and then some in his decision. But before he does that, he’s going to agree that he’s precluded from digging into the facts pertaining to the foreclosure judgment previously obtained in state court, and so he’s going to grant relief from the automatic stay and allow this foreclosure to proceed. And in that regard the judge writes…
For the reasons that follow, the Debtor’s objection to the Motion is overruled and the Motion is granted. The Debtor’s objection is overruled by application of either the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, or res judicata. Under those doctrines, this Court must accept the state court judgment of foreclosure as evidence of U.S. Bank’s status as a creditor secured by the Property. Such status is sufficient to establish the Movant’s standing to seek relief from the automatic stay. The Motion is granted on the merits because the Movant has shown, and the Debtor has not disputed, sufficient basis to lift the stay under Section 362(d).

Next the judge explains that, even though this court is constrained by Rooker-Feldman and the previously obtained state court decision, because there are numerous other cases before this court that present identical issues, and for which there have been no prior dispositive state court decisions, he’s going to look beyond this case’s limitations and publish a decision that addresses the issue of whether the “Movant” has established standing in this case because of the precedential effect it will have on other cases pending before the court. And so he writes…

Although the Court is constrained in this case to give full force and effect to the state court judgment of foreclosure, there are numerous other cases before this Court, which present identical issues with respect to MERS and in which there have been no prior dispositive state court decisions.

This Court has deferred rulings on dozens of other motions for relief from stay pending the resolution of the issue of whether an entity which acquires its interests in a mortgage by way of assignment from MERS, as nominee, is a valid secured creditor with standing to seek relief from the automatic stay.

It is for this reason that the Court’s decision in this matter will address the issue of whether the Movant has established standing in this case notwithstanding the existence of the foreclosure judgment. The Court believes this analysis is necessary for the precedential effect it will have on other cases pending before this Court.

The next paragraph of the judge’s decision is particularly telling. It is Judge Grossman completely disregarding perhaps MERS’ favorite argument, which is that MERS has to be okay because half the mortgages in this country are registered with MERS and if it’s not okay, the whole world will come to an end.

Judge Grossman states his view of this argument in no uncertain terms…

The Court recognizes that an adverse ruling regarding MERS’s authority to assign mortgages or act on behalf of its member/lenders could have a significant impact on MERS and upon the lenders, which do business with MERS throughout the United States.

However, the Court must resolve the instant matter by applying the laws as they exist today. It is up to the legislative branch, if it chooses, to amend the current statutes to confer upon MERS the requisite authority to assign mortgages under its current business practices.

MERS and its partners made the decision to create and operate under a business model that was designed in large part to avoid the requirements of the traditional mortgage recording process. This Court does not accept the argument that because MERS may be involved with 50% of all residential mortgages in the country, that is reason enough for this Court to turn a blind eye to the fact that this process does not comply with the law.
Wow, so you see what he’s saying there, right? It’s worth repeating…

MERS and its partners made the decision to create and operate under a business model that was designed in large part to avoid the requirements of the traditional mortgage recording process. This Court does not accept the argument that because MERS may be involved with 50% of all residential mortgages in the country, that is reason enough for this Court to turn a blind eye to the fact that this process does not comply with the law.
Did you hear that sound? That was the sound of the MERS ship hitting an iceberg and starting to sink. To the lifeboats, banker-people, your ship is sinking, and the water’s damn cold.

And on that note, it’s once again time to Sing-Along with Mandelman! You remember the song from our youth about “How they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue? And they thought they had a ship that the water would never leak through. But the Lord’s almighty hand, knew that ship would never stand… it was sad when the great ship went down. It was sad, so sad… it was sad, so sad…” You remember that one right?

Alrighty then… so, sing it like you mean it… with feeling… and if you don’t want to sing, maybe you should be reading about this stuff on Naked Capitalism, or Firedog Lake… Yves Smith is smarter than all get out, but when was the last time she led you in song?

V1:

Oh they built the good ship MERS, so foreclosures could sail through,

And they thought they had a plan that the courts would never see through,

But some lawyers’ learned hands, showed that MERS just didn’t stand,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

CHORUS:

Oh we were glad, so glad,

We were glad, so glad,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down, to the bottom of the sea…

Many lost homes, but to those who lacked their loans,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

V2:

Oh, they went into the courts, hoping judges were inclined,

To not care exactly how, someone’s loan had been assigned.

Yes, the banks would rue the day, when they wrote that PSA,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

CHORUS:

Oh we were glad, so glad,

We were glad, so glad,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down, to the bottom of the sea…

Many lost homes, but to those who lacked their loans,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

V3:

MERS said it had the right, to do things as it pleased,

But the courts did not agree, and soon homes could not be seized.

Seems laws had important words, and MERS assertions were absurd,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

CHORUS:

Oh we were glad, so glad

We were glad, so glad

We were glad when the MERS ship went down, to the bottom of the sea…

Many lost homes, but to those who lacked their loans,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

V4:

Soon the bankers will all see, that fraud is not what prevails,

And they’ll realize their hot air will not fill this nation’s sails,

But the price will have been paid, for their mortgage-backed charade,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

CHORUS:

Oh we were glad, so glad

We were glad, so glad

We were glad when the MERS ship went down, to the bottom of the sea…

Many lost homes, but to those who lacked their loans,

We were glad when the MERS ship went down.

~~~

Okay, so I know there are at least a few people out there singing along with that little ditty from days spent at summer camp or on the school bus while on the way home from a field trip. Maybe next time I’ll work from Bingo Was His Name-O, or 100 bottles of Beer on the Wall.

Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty to do reading Judge Grossman’s decision as provided below. But, before you do, here are a few highlights, once again for those who want the Reader’s Digest Version.

First, from the MERS side of the argument…

In addition to adopting the arguments asserted by the Movant, MERS strenuously defends its authority to act as mortgagee pursuant to the procedures for processing this and other mortgages under the MERS “system.”

First, MERS points out that the Mortgage itself designates MERS as the “nominee” for the original lender, First Franklin, and its successors and assigns.

In addition, the lender designates, and the Debtor agrees to recognize, MERS “as the mortgagee of record and as nominee for ‘Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns’” and as such the Debtor “expressly agreed without qualification that MERS had the right to foreclose upon the premises as well as exercise any and all rights as nominee for the Lender.” (MERS Memorandum of Law at 7).

These designations as “nominee,” and “mortgagee of record,” and the Debtor’s recognition thereof, it argues, leads to the conclusion that MERS was authorized as a matter of law to assign the Mortgage to U.S. Bank.

Although MERS believes that the mortgage documents alone provide it with authority to effectuate the assignment at issue, they also urge the Court to broaden its analysis and read the documents in the context of the overall “MERS System.” According to MERS, each participating bank/lender agrees to be bound by the terms of a membership agreement pursuant to which the member appoints MERS to act as its authorized agent with authority to, among other things, hold legal title to mortgages and as a result, MERS is empowered to execute assignments of mortgage on behalf of all its member banks.

In this particular case, MERS maintains that as a member of MERS and pursuant to the MERS membership agreement, the loan originator in this case, First Franklin, appointed MERS “to act as its agent to hold the Mortgage as nominee on First Franklin’s behalf, and on behalf of First Franklin’s successors and assigns.”

MERS explains that subsequent to the mortgage’s inception, First Franklin assigned the Note to Aurora Bank FSB f/k/a Lehman Brothers Bank (“Aurora”), another MERS member. According to MERS, note assignments among MERS members are tracked via self-effectuated and self-monitored computer entries into the MERS database. As a MERS member, by operation of the MERS membership rules, Aurora is deemed to have appointed MERS to act as its agent to hold the Mortgage as nominee.

Aurora subsequently assigned the Note to U.S. Bank, also a MERS member. By operation of the MERS membership agreement, U.S. Bank is deemed to have appointed MERS to act as its agent to hold the Mortgage as nominee. Then, according to MERS, “U.S. Bank, as the holder of the note, under the MERS Membership Rules, chose to instruct MERS to assign the Mortgage to U.S. Bank prior to commencing the foreclosure proceedings by U.S. Bank.” (Affirmation of William C. Hultman, ¶12).

MERS argues that the express terms of the mortgage coupled with the provisions of the MERS membership agreement, is “more than sufficient to create an agency relationship between MERS and lender and the lender’s successors in interest” under New York law and as a result establish MERS’s authority to assign the Mortgage.

Okay, so that’s much of what MERS has to say about why it’s practices are fine and dandy, now let’s take a quick look at what the judge in this case has to say about the assignment of the note, among other things…

Noteholder Status

In the Motion, the Movant asserts U.S. Bank’s status as the “holder” of the Mortgage.

However, in order to have standing to seek relief from stay, Movant, which acts as the representative of U.S. Bank, must show that U.S. Bank holds both the Mortgage and the Note. Mims, 438 B.R. at 56. Although the Motion does not explicitly state that U.S. Bank is the holder of the Note, it is implicit in the Motion and the arguments presented by the Movant at the hearing.

However, the record demonstrates that the Movant has produced no evidence, documentary or otherwise, that U.S. Bank is the rightful holder of the Note.

Movant’s reliance on the fact that U.S. Bank’s noteholder status has not been challenged thus far does not alter or diminish the Movant’s burden to show that it is the holder of the Note as well as the Mortgage.

Under New York law, Movant can prove that U.S. Bank is the holder of the Note by providing the Court with proof of a written assignment of the Note, or by demonstrating that U.S. Bank has physical possession of the Note endorsed over to it. See, eg., LaSalle Bank N.A. v. Lamy, 824 N.Y.S.2d 769, 2006 WL 2251721, at *1 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Aug. 7, 2006).

The only written assignment presented to the Court is not an assignment of the Note but rather an “Assignment of Mortgage” which contains a vague reference to the Note.

Tagged to the end of the provisions which purport to assign the Mortgage, there is language in the Assignment stating “To Have and to Hold the said Mortgage and Note, and also the said property until the said Assignee forever, subject to the terms contained in said Mortgage and Note.” (Assignment of Mortgage (emphasis added)).

Not only is the language vague and insufficient to prove an intent to assign the Note, but MERS is not a party to the Note and the record is barren of any representation that MERS, the purported assignee, had any authority to take any action with respect to the Note. Therefore, the Court finds that the Assignment of Mortgage is not sufficient to establish an effective assignment of the Note.

By MERS’s own account, it took no part in the assignment of the Note in this case, but merely provided a database, which allowed its members to electronically self-report transfers of the Note.

MERS does not confirm that the Note was properly transferred or in fact whether anyone including agents of MERS had or have physical possession of the Note. What remains undisputed is that MERS did not have any rights with respect to the Note and other than as described above, MERS played no role in the transfer of the Note.

Absent a showing of a valid assignment of the Note, Movant can demonstrate that U.S. Bank is the holder of the Note if it can show that U.S. Bank has physical possession of the Note endorsed to its name. See In re Mims, 423 B.R. at 56-57.

According to the evidence presented in this matter the manner in which the MERS system is structured provides that, “when the beneficial interest in a loan is sold, the promissory note is transferred by an endorsement and delivery from the buyer to the seller [sic], but MERS Members are obligated to update the MERS® System to reflect the change in ownership of the promissory note. . . .” (MERS Supplemental Memorandum of Law at 6).

However, there is nothing in the record to prove that the Note in this case was transferred according to the processes described above other than MERS’s representation that its computer database reflects that the Note was transferred to U.S. Bank.

The Court has no evidentiary basis to find that the Note was endorsed to U.S. Bank or that U.S. Bank has physical possession of the Note. Therefore, the Court finds that Movant has not satisfied its burden of showing that U.S. Bank, the party on whose behalf Movant seeks relief from stay, is the holder of the Note.

So, the judge is saying things that are very similar to what we’ve all heard before, most recently in the Ibanez Decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and in the New Jersey court decision, Kemp v. Countrywide, among numerous others of late. How was the note assigned, was it endorsed properly, can the trustee even produce any evidence that the trust is the holder of the note?

What it would seem to come down to is quite simple, I think…

Does the trust that thinks that it owns the loan, actually own the loan, and can the trustee produce any evidence that it does own the loan?

If the loan was not properly transferred into the trust, and if there is no evidence that the trust owns the loan in question, then it would seem that the investor bought a mortgage-backed security without the mortgage-backed part, and my guess would be that the investors at this point don’t care about the mortgages… they will want their pound of flesh from the bankers whose massive securities fraud has robbed them of untold billions and destroyed the global financial system.

I’m not a lawyer, but with the first investor lawsuit against Bank of America – Countrywide having been filed just a couple weeks ago, and saying basically that the investor was delivered mortgage-backed securities without the mortgages, that’s how I’m seeing it start to stack up.

Now let’s look at what the judge says about the mortgage itself… you see… it’s supposed to follow the note, but when MERS is in the game, it simply doesn’t.

Mortgagee Status

The Movant’s failure to show that U.S. Bank holds the Note should be fatal to the Movant’s standing.

However, even if the Movant could show that U.S. Bank is the holder of the Note, it still would have to establish that it holds the Mortgage in order to prove that it is a secured creditor with standing to bring this Motion before this Court.

The Movant urges the Court to adhere to the adage that a mortgage necessarily follows the same path as the note for which it stands as collateral. See Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Perry, 875 N.Y.S.2d 853, 856 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009).

In simple terms the Movant relies on the argument that a note and mortgage are inseparable. See Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. 271, 274 (1872).

While it is generally true that a mortgage travels a parallel path with its corresponding debt obligation, the parties in this case have adopted a process, which by its very terms alters this practice where mortgages are held by MERS as “mortgagee of record.”

By MERS’s own account, the Note in this case was transferred among its members, while the Mortgage remained in MERS’s name.

MERS admits that the very foundation of its business model as described herein requires that the Note and Mortgage travel on divergent paths. Because the Note and Mortgage did not travel together, Movant must prove not only that it is acting on behalf of a valid assignee of the Note, but also that it is acting on behalf of the valid assignee of the Mortgage5.

Footnote 5 – MERS argues that notes and mortgages processed through the MERS System are never “separated” because beneficial ownership of the notes and mortgages are always held by the same entity.

The Court will not address that issue in this Decision, but leaves open the issue as to whether mortgages processed through the MERS system are properly perfected and valid liens. See Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. at 274 (finding that an assignment of the mortgage without the note is a nullity); Landmark Nat’l Bank v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158, 166-67 (Kan. 2009)

(“In the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some independent entity, the mortgage may become unenforceable”).
Yes, you read that last part right. The mortgage may become unenforceable. That’s really the 800-pound Gorilla in the room, isn’t it? Do they own it or not, and if they broke the laws, who wins?

Many people get all upset about the idea that a homeowner could not have to pay their mortgage because the laws were broken related to the transfer of the note and mortgage, but I’m starting to think they’re just a bunch of crybabies. The law is the law and if it says that someone doesn’t owe their mortgage, well… good for them.

We’re a nation built on laws and forged by lawyers, and there have been a lot of unpopular decisions that rightly stood because they upheld our nation’s laws… Brown v. The Board of Education comes immediately to mind, but there are many.

We need our plaintiff’s lawyers, our judges and our courts, if we’re going to live through what’s ahead of us. We certainly can’t depend on our legislature or our executive branches… they have, for the most part, been bought and paid for… our system is corrupt with the money of lobbyists. Only our laws and our courts can see us through this, and I’m willing to abide by whatever they say follows the law.

Okay, so here’s just a bit more from Judge Grossman’s analysis and conclusion…

MERS asserts that its right to assign the Mortgage to U.S. Bank in this case, and in what it estimates to be literally millions of other cases, stems from three sources: the Mortgage documents; the MERS membership agreement; and state law.

In order to provide some context to this discussion, the Court will begin its analysis with an overview of mortgage and loan processing within the MERS network of lenders as set forth in the record of this case.

In the most common residential lending scenario, there are two parties to a real property mortgage – a mortgagee, i.e., a lender, and a mortgagor, i.e., a borrower. With some nuances and allowances for the needs of modern finance this model has been followed for hundreds of years.

The MERS business plan, as envisioned and implemented by lenders and others involved in what has become known as the mortgage finance industry, is based in large part on amending this traditional model and introducing a third party into the equation.

MERS is, in fact, neither a borrower nor a lender, but rather purports to be both “mortgagee of record” and a “nominee” for the mortgagee.

MERS was created to alleviate problems created by, what was determined by the financial community to be, slow and burdensome recording processes adopted by virtually every state and locality. In effect the MERS system was designed to circumvent these procedures. MERS, as envisioned by its originators, operates as a replacement for our traditional system of public recordation of mortgages.

MERS argues that it had full authority to validly execute the Assignment of Mortgage to U.S. Bank on February 1, 2008, and that as of the date the foreclosure proceeding was commenced U.S. Bank held both the Note and the Mortgage.

However, without more, this Court finds that MERS’s “nominee” status and the rights bestowed upon MERS within the Mortgage itself are insufficient to empower MERS to effectuate a valid assignment of mortgage.

There are several published New York state trial level decisions holding that the status of “nominee” or “mortgagee of record” bestowed upon MERS in the mortgage documents, by itself, does not empower MERS to effectuate an assignment of the mortgage.

However, the rules lack any specific mention of an agency relationship, and do not bestow upon MERS any authority to act. Rather, the rules are ambiguous as to MERS’s authority to take affirmative actions with respect to mortgages registered on its system.
That’s pretty clear, I think. MERS, you’re going down.

In addition to casting itself as nominee/agent, MERS seems to argue that its role as “mortgagee of record” gives it the rights of a mortgagee in its own right.

MERS relies on the definition of “mortgagee” in the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law Section 1921, which states that a “mortgagee” when used in the context of Section 1921, means the “current holder of the mortgage of record . . . or their agents, successors or assigns.” N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. L. § 1921 (McKinney 2011).

The provisions of Section 1921 relate solely to the discharge of mortgages and the Court will not apply that definition beyond the provisions of that section in order to find that MERS is a “mortgagee” with full authority to perform the duties of mortgagee in its own right.

Aside from the inappropriate reliance upon the statutory definition of “mortgagee,” MERS’s position that it can be both the mortgagee and an agent of the mortgagee is absurd, at best.

Okay, so some of that gets a little technical, I agree, but the last sentence is about as straightforward as it gets… MERS’s position that it can be both the mortgagee and an agent of the mortgagee is absurd, at best. And wait… there’s just a little bit more…

Adding to this absurdity, it is notable in this case that the Assignment of Mortgage was by MERS, as nominee for First Franklin, the original lender.

By the Movant’s and MERS’s own admission, at the time the assignment was effectuated, First Franklin no longer held any interest in the Note.

Both the Movant and MERS have represented to the Court that subsequent to the origination of the loan, the Note was assigned, through the MERS tracking system, from First Franklin to Aurora, and then from Aurora to U.S. Bank. Accordingly, at the time that MERS, as nominee of First Franklin, assigned the interest in the Mortgage to U.S. Bank, U.S. Bank allegedly already held the Note and it was at U.S. Bank’s direction, not First Franklin’s, that the Mortgage was assigned to U.S. Bank.

Said another way, when MERS assigned the Mortgage to U.S. Bank on First Franklin’s behalf, it took its direction from U.S. Bank, not First Franklin, to provide documentation of an assignment from an entity that no longer had any rights to the Note or the Mortgage.

The documentation provided to the Court in this case (and the Court has no reason to believe that any further documentation exists), is stunningly inconsistent with what the parties define as the facts of this case.

However, even if MERS had assigned the Mortgage acting on behalf of the entity which held the Note at the time of the assignment, this Court finds that MERS did not have authority, as “nominee” or agent, to assign the Mortgage absent a showing that it was given specific written directions by its principal.

This Court finds that MERS’s theory that it can act as a “common agent” for undisclosed principals is not support by the law.

The relationship between MERS and its lenders and its distortion of its alleged “nominee” status was appropriately described by the Supreme Court of Kansas as follows: “The parties appear to have defined the word [nominee] in much the same way that the blind men of Indian legend described an elephant – their description depended on which part they were touching at any given time.”

For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that the Motion in this case should be granted. However, in all future cases, which involve MERS, the moving party must show that it validly holds both the mortgage and the underlying note in order to prove standing before this Court.

February 10, 2011

Hon. Robert E. Grossman United States Bankruptcy Judge
~~~

It’s very important to realize that the judge’s findings related to MERS in this case are NOT BINDING ON ANY COURT.

As foreclosure defense attorney Thomas Cox explains:

“Judge Grossman’s findings about MERS are not binding on anyone, because they did not resolve any issue in the case where Rooker-Feldman blocked that inquiry.”
Cox says he won’t be surprised if the MERS/securitization/foreclosure industry spin mentions this point since the law prohibited the judge from going behind the judgment to see how U.S. Bank got the mortgage, then it also prohibited making binding findings about the MERS issue.

Cox further points out…

“On the other hand, with that being so, I am highly doubtful that U.S. Bank and Select Portfolio Servicing could appeal from those MERS holdings because their position in the case was not affected by them. While the judge did allow them to intervene, since the judge’s opinions about MERS are not binding on any court, I do not see how MERS could effectively argue that it suffered a legally cognizable harm. If and when Judge Grossman, or some other judge, in some other case uses the rationale laid out by Judge Grossman to nullify a MERS mortgage assignment, only then will a trustee and/or MERS have any ability to appeal the issue.”
Okay, so that about covers it, I’d say. Below you’ll find the Judge Grossman’s decision in its entirety, and hat tip to attorney Thomas Cox of Portland, Maine for bringing this decision to my attention, helping me to understand it, and continuing to go after the bastards with the strength and tenacity of a Mainer.

Mandelman out.

In re: Ferrel L. Agard, Debtor
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We have new details on Goldman Sachs’ $5 billion legal settlement


We have new details on Goldman Sachs’ $5 billion legal settlement

Evan Vucci/APGoldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Jamie Dimon Lloyd Blankfein

Wells Fargo just agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle ‘shoddy’ mortgage practices

We now know more about the $5 billion settlement Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay related to residential mortgage-backed securities it sold between 2005 and 2007.

Regulators announced details of the settlement on Monday.

Goldman initially announced the settlement in January. That nearly wiped out fourth-quarter earnings for the firm.

“Today’s settlement is yet another acknowledgment by one of our leading financial institutions that it did not live up to the representations it made to investors about the products it was selling,” said one regulator, US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California, in a statement.

“We are pleased to put these legacy matters behind us,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement. “Since the financial crisis, we have taken significant steps to strengthen our culture, reinforce our commitment to our clients, and ensure our governance processes are robust.”

Morgan Stanley announced a similar settlement in February. It agreed to pay $3.2 billion over charges that it misled investors on the quality of mortgage loans it sold.

And on Friday, the US Justice Department announced that Wells Fargo had agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle “shoddy” mortgage-lending practices.

Here’s what we learned about the Goldman settlement on Monday:

  • $2.385 billion in a civil-monetary penalty
  • $875 million to settle claims by various federal and state entities, including:
    • $575 million to settle claims by the National Credit Union Administration
    • $37.5 million to settle claims by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines as successor to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle
    • $37.5 million to settle claims by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
    • $190 million to settle claims by the state of New York
    • $25 million to settle claims by the state of Illinois
    • $10 million to settle claims by the state of California
  • $1.8 billion in the form of relief to aid consumers who were allegedly harmed

Here’s a press release from the Department of Justice:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department, along with federal and state partners, announced today a $5.06 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs related to Goldman’s conduct in the packaging, securitization, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) between 2005 and 2007. The resolution announced today requires Goldman to pay $2.385 billion in a civil penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) and also requires the bank to provide $1.8 billion in other relief, including relief to underwater homeowners, distressed borrowers and affected communities, in the form of loan forgiveness and financing for affordable housing. Goldman will also pay $875 million to resolve claims by other federal entities and state claims. Investors, including federally-insured financial institutions, suffered billions of dollars in losses from investing in RMBS issued and underwritten by Goldman between 2005 and 2007.

“This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “This $5 billion settlement includes a $1.8 billion commitment to help repair the damage to homeowners and communities that Goldman acknowledges resulted from its conduct, and it makes clear that no institution may inflict this type of harm on investors and the American public without serious consequences.”

“Today’s settlement is another example of the department’s resolve to hold accountable those whose illegal conduct resulted in the financial crisis of 2008,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Viewed in conjunction with the previous multibillion-dollar recoveries that the department has obtained for similar conduct, this settlement demonstrates the pervasiveness of the banking industry’s fraudulent practices in selling RMBS, and the power of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act as a tool for combatting this type of wrongdoing.”

“Today’s settlement is yet another acknowledgment by one of our leading financial institutions that it did not live up to the representations it made to investors about the products it was selling,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California. “Goldman’s conduct in exploiting the RMBS market contributed to an international financial crisis that people across the country, including many in the Eastern District of California, continue to struggle to recover from. I am gratified that this office has developed investigations, first against JPMorgan Chase and now against Goldman Sachs, that have led to significant civil settlements that hold bad actors in this market accountable. The results obtained by this office and other members of the RMBS Working Group continue to send a message to Wall Street that we remain committed to pursuing those responsible for the financial crisis.”

The $2.385 billion civil monetary penalty resolves claims under FIRREA, which authorizes the federal government to impose civil penalties against financial institutions that violate various predicate offenses, including wire and mail fraud. The settlement expressly preserves the government’s ability to bring criminal charges against Goldman, and does not release any individuals from potential criminal or civil liability. In addition, as part of the settlement, Goldman agreed to fully cooperate with any ongoing investigations related to the conduct covered by the agreement.

Of the $875 million Goldman has agreed to pay to settle claims by various other federal and state entities: Goldman will pay $575 million to settle claims by the National Credit Union Administration, $37.5 million to settle claims by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines as successor to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, $37.5 million to settle claims by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, $190 million to settle claims by the state of New York, $25 million to settle claims by the state of Illinois and $10 million to settle claims by the state of California.

Goldman will pay out the remaining $1.8 billion in the form of relief to aid consumers harmed by its unlawful conduct. $1.52 billion of that relief will be paid out pursuant to an agreement with the United States that Goldman will provide loan modifications, including loan forgiveness and forbearance, to distressed and underwater homeowners throughout the country, as well as financing for affordable rental and for-sale housing throughout the country. This agreement represents the largest commitment in any RMBS agreement to provide financing for affordable housing—a crucial need following the turmoil of the financial crisis. $280 million will be paid out by Goldman pursuant to an agreement separately negotiated with the state of New York.

The settlement includes a statement of facts to which Goldman has agreed. That statement of facts describes how Goldman made false and misleading representations to prospective investors about the characteristics of the loans it securitized and the ways in which Goldman would protect investors in its RMBS from harm (the quotes in the following paragraphs are from that agreed-upon statement of facts, unless otherwise noted):

  • Goldman told investors in offering documents that “[l]oans in the securitized pools were originated generally in accordance with the loan originator’s underwriting guidelines,” other than possible situations where “when the originator identified ‘compensating factors’ at the time of origination.” But Goldman has today acknowledged that, “Goldman received information indicating that, for certain loan pools, significant percentages of the loans reviewed did not conform to the representations made to investors about the pools of loans to be securitized.”
  • Specifically, Goldman has now acknowledged that, even when the results of its due diligence on samples of loans from those pools “indicated that the unsampled portions of the pools likely contained additional loans with credit exceptions, Goldman typically did not . . . identify and eliminate any additional loans with credit exceptions.” Goldman has acknowledged that it “failed to do this even when the samples included significant numbers of loans with credit exceptions.”
  • Goldman’s Mortgage Capital Committee, which included senior mortgage department personnel and employees from Goldman’s credit and legal departments, was required to approve every RMBS issued by Goldman. Goldman has now acknowledged that “[t]he Mortgage Capital Committee typically received . . . summaries of Goldman’s due diligence results for certain of the loan pools backing the securitization,” but that “[d]espite the high numbers of loans that Goldman had dropped from the loan pools, the Mortgage Capital Committee approved every RMBS that was presented to it between December 2005 and 2007.” As one example, in early 2007, Goldman approved and issued a subprime RMBS backed by loans originated by New Century Mortgage Corporation, after Goldman’s due diligence process found that one of the loan pools to be securitized included loans originated with “[e]xtremely aggressive underwriting,” and where Goldman dropped 25 percent of the loans from the due diligence sample on that pool without reviewing the unsampled 70 percent of the pool to determine whether those loans had similar problems.
  • Goldman has acknowledged that, for one August 2006 RMBS, the due diligence results for some of the loan pools resulted in an “unusually high” percentage of loans with credit and compliance defects. The Mortgage Capital Committee was presented with a summary of these results and asked “How do we know that we caught everything?” One transaction manager responded “we don’t.” Another transaction manager responded, “Depends on what you mean by everything? Because of the limited sampling . . . we don’t catch everything . . .” Goldman has now acknowledged that the Mortgage Capital Committee approved this RMBS for securitization without requiring any further due diligence.
  • Goldman made detailed representations to investors about its “counterparty qualification process” for vetting loan originators, and told investors and one rating agency that Goldman would engage in ongoing monitoring of loan sellers. Goldman has now acknowledged, however, that it “received certain negative information regarding the originators’ business practices” and that much of this information was not disclosed to investors.
  • For example, Goldman has now acknowledged that in late 2006 it conducted an internal analysis of the underwriting guidelines of Fremont Investment & Loan (an originator), which found many of Fremont’s guidelines to be “off market” or “at the aggressive end of market standards.” Instead of disclosing its view of Fremont’s underwriting, Goldman has acknowledged that it “[u]ndertook a significant marketing effort” to tell investors about what Goldman called Fremont’s “commitment to loan quality over volume” and “significant enhancements to Fremont underwriting guidelines.”  Fremont was shut down by federal regulators within several months of these statements.
  • In another example, Goldman was aware in early-mid 2006 of certain issues with Countrywide Financial Corporation’s origination process, including a pattern of non-responsiveness and inability to provide sufficient staff to handle the numerous loan pools Countrywide was selling. In April 2006, while Goldman was preparing an RMBS backed by Countrywide loans for securitization, a Goldman mortgage department manager circulated a “very bullish” equity research report that recommended the purchase of Countrywide stock. Goldman’s head of due diligence, who had just overseen the due diligence on six Countrywide pools, responded “If they only knew . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”
  • Meanwhile, as Goldman has acknowledged in this statement of facts, “[Around the end of 2006], Goldman employees observed signs of uncertainty in the residential mortgage market [and] by March 2007, Goldman had largely halted new purchases of subprime loan pools.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colleen Kennedy and Kelli Taylor of the Eastern District of California investigated Goldman’s conduct in connection with RMBS, with the support of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of the Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

“Goldman Sachs had a fiduciary responsibility to investors, which they blatantly side stepped,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigation Rene Febles of FHFA-OIG. “They knowingly put investors at risk and in so doing contributed significantly to the financial crisis. The losses caused by this irresponsible behavior deeply affected not only financial institutions but also taxpayers and one can only hope that Goldman Sachs has learned the difference between risk and deceit. Two Federal Home Loan Banks suffered significant losses so we are pleased to see both entities receive a portion of this settlement. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold those accountable who have engaged in misconduct.”

“Goldman took $10 billion in TARP bailout funds knowing that it had fraudulently misrepresented to investors the quality of residential mortgages bundled into mortgage backed securities,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero for TARP. “Many of these toxic securities were traded in a taxpayer funded bailout program that was designed to unlock frozen credit markets during the crisis. While crisis investigations take time, SIGTARP is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect taxpayers and bring accountability and justice.”

The settlement is part of the ongoing efforts of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s RMBS Working Group, which has recovered tens of billions of dollars on behalf of American consumers and investors for claims against large financial institutions arising from misconduct related to the financial crisis. The RMBS Working Group brings together attorneys, investigators, analysts and staff from multiple state and federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD’s Office of Inspector General, the FHFA-OIG, SIGTARP, the Federal Reserve Board’s OIG, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and multiple state Attorneys General offices around the country. The RMBS Working Group is led by Director Joshua Wilkenfeld and five co-chairs: Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Director Andrew Ceresney of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, U.S. Attorney John Walsh of the District of Colorado and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. This settlement is the fifth multibillion-dollar RMBS settlement announced by the working group.

Here’s a press release from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined members of the state and federal working group he co-chairs to announce a $5 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs over the bank’s deceptive practices leading up to the financial crisis. The settlement includes $670 million—$480 million worth of creditable consumer relief and $190 million in cash—that will be allocated to New York State. The resolution requires Goldman Sachs to provide significant community-level relief to New Yorkers, including resources that will facilitate a significant expansion of the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program enabling distressed homeowners to restructure their debt, as well as first-lien principal forgiveness, and funds to spur the construction of more affordable housing. Additional resources will be dedicated to helping communities transform their code enforcement systems, and invest in land banks and land trusts.

The settlement was negotiated through the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a joint state and federal working group formed in 2012 to share resources and continue investigating wrongdoing in the mortgage-backed securities market prior to the financial crisis.

New York has now received $5.33 billion in cash and consumer relief from the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) and all five Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group settlements (RMBS). The combined $3.2 billion in cash and consumer relief from RMBS settlements is more than any other state.

“Since 2012, my number one priority has been getting New Yorkers the resources they need to rebuild,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These dollars will immediately go to work funding proven programs and services to help New Yorkers keep their homes and rebuild their communities. We’ve witnessed the incredible impact these programs and services can have in helping communities recover from the financial crisis. This settlement, like those before it, ensures that these critical programs—such as mortgage assistance, principal forgiveness, and code enforcement—will continue to get funded well into the future, and will be paid for by the institutions responsible for the financial crisis.”

The settlement includes an agreed-upon statement of facts that describes how Goldman Sachs made multiple representations to RMBS investors about the quality of the mortgage loans it securitized and sold to investors, its process for screening out questionable loans, and its process for qualifying loan originators. Contrary to those representations, Goldman Sachs securitized and sold RMBS backed by large numbers of loans from originators whose mortgage loans contained material defects.

In the statement of facts, Goldman Sachs acknowledges that it securitized thousands of Alt-A, and subprime mortgage loans and sold the resulting residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) to investors for tens of billions of dollars. During the course of its due diligence process, Goldman Sachs received pertinent information indicating that significant percentages of the loans reviewed did not conform to the representations it made to investors. Goldman also received and failed to disclose negative information that it obtained regarding the originators’ business practices. Indeed, Goldman’s due diligence vendors provided Goldman with reports reflecting that the vendors had graded significant numbers and percentages of sampled loans as EV3s, i.e., not in compliance with originator underwriting guidelines. In certain circumstances, Goldman reevaluated loan grades and directed that such loans be waived into the pools to be purchased or securitized.

Even when the percentage of problematic loans in pools sampled by it vendors indicated that the unsampled portions of the pools likely contained additional such loans, Goldman typically did not increase the size of the sample or review the unsampled portions of the pools to identify and eliminate any additional such loans. In many cases, 80 percent or more of the loans in the loan pools Goldman purchased and securitized were not sampled for credit and compliance due diligence. Nevertheless, Goldman approved various offerings for securitization without requiring further due diligence to determine whether the remaining loans in the deal contained defects. A Goldman employee overseeing due diligence for a particular loan pool noted that the pool included loans originated with “[e]xtremely aggressive underwriting” and “large program exceptions made without compensating factors.” Despite this observation, Goldman did not review the remaining portion of the pool, and subsequently securitized thousands of loans from the pool.

Goldman made statements to investors in offering documents and in certain other marketing materials regarding its process for reviewing and approving originators, yet it failed to disclose to investors negative information it obtained about mortgage loan originators and its practice of securitizing loans from suspended originators.

Beginning in mid-2006, Goldman recognized that Fremont, a “key originator, was experiencing an increasing level of early payment defaults (“EPDs”) (i.e., loans for which the borrowers had failed to make one or more of their first payments). Goldman was aware that EPDs were a sign of originators’ bad credit decisions and could be indicators of potential borrower fraud. However, Goldman did not put Fremont on its “no bid” list and continued to purchase loan pools from Fremont during the period Fremont’s EPD claims remained unpaid. Moreover, Goldman “[u]ndertook a significant marketing effort” to tell investors about what Goldman called Fremont’s “commitment to loan quality over volume” and “significant enhancements to Fremont underwriting guidelines.” Likewise, Goldman identified issues with Countrywide’s origination practices. Goldman’s head of due diligence, when presented with a “very bullish” equity report on Countrywide, another large originator, exclaimed “[i]f they only knew  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Attorney General Schneiderman was elected in 2010 and took office in 2011, when the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 state attorneys general, and the federal government were on the verge of agreeing to a settlement that would have released the banks—including Bank of America—from liability for virtually all misconduct related to the financial crisis. Attorney General Schneiderman refused to agree to such sweeping immunity for the banks. As a result, Attorney General Schneiderman secured a settlement that preserved a wide range of claims for further investigation and prosecution. In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the formation of the RMBS Working Group. The collaboration brought together the Department of Justice (DOJ), other federal entities, and several state law enforcement officials—co-chaired by Attorney General Schneiderman—to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Under today’s settlement, Goldman Sachs will be required to provide a minimum of $480 million in creditable consumer relief directly to struggling families and communities across the state. The settlement includes a menu of options for consumer relief to be provided, and different categories of relief are credited at different rates toward the bank’s $480 million obligation, including at least:

  • $220 million for debt restructuring
  • $30 million for land banks and land trusts
  • $30 million for code enforcement
  • $150 million for first-lien principal reduction
  • $50 million for the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing

In addition to the settlement with Goldman Sachs, the RMBS working group has reached settlements with four other major financial institutions since 2012:

  • J.P. Morgan Chase: $13 Billion
  • Bank of America: $16.6 Billion
  • Citibank: $7 Billion
  • Morgan Stanley: $3.2 Billion

The National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), reached with the five largest national mortgage servicers, has provided $51 billion in consumer relief and cash nationwide. The combined amount of cash and consumer relief that has been returned to New York as a result of all the RMBS and NMS deals is $1.481 billion in cash and $3.857 in consumer relief, for a total of $5.338 billion. This matter was led by Senior Enforcement Counsel for Economic Justice Steven Glassman and Assistant Attorneys General Desiree Cummings and Kenneth Haim, both of the Investor Protection Bureau.

 

$150 billion in bank fines and penalties


7 years on from crisis, $150 billion in bank fines and penalties
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/30/7-years-on-from-crisis-150-billion-in-bank-fines-and-penalties.html
John W. Schoen | @johnwschoen
Thursday, 30 Apr 2015 | 2:32 PM ET

(Scott Mlyn | CNBC )

Bank of America
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

More than seven years after the global financial collapse, regulators and investors are still working through an epic pile of lawsuits and other civil actions, collecting settlements, fines and other penalties for a long list of wrongdoing.

The latest settlement involved Bank of America, which agreed this week to pay $180 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank and others manipulate foreign-exchange rates, according to The Wall Street Journal. JPMorgan Chase has already settled with the same investor group, while others, including Citigroup, are expected to settle soon, the The Journal notes.

The 2013 lawsuit claimed bank traders shared customer information to profit at their clients’ expense, according to the report.

The settlement follows a seven-year effort by federal and state regulators that included dozens of actions related to a broad range of misconduct and fraud, including bilking mortgage investors, laundering money and evading taxes. So far, banks and other institutions have paid more than $150 billion in fines, settlements and other penalties, according to a tally by the Financial Times.

That compares with roughly $700 billion in profits generated by U.S. banks between 2007 and 2014, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Financial penalties
Banks and other financial firms have paid more than $150 billion in fines, settlements and restitution to homeowners and investors since the finanical crisis. Click on a bubble for details, then hover over bars for payment descriptions. (SOURCE: Financial Times.)

Bank of America: $57.8 Billion
JPMorgan Chase: $31.3 Billion
Citigroup $12.8 Billion
Wells Fargo $ 9.7 Billion
PNB Paribas $ 8.9 Billion
HSBC $ 3.5 Billion
UBS $ 3.5 Billion
Sun Trust $ 2.9 Billion
Also listed are Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, but for which no amount of money is shown:

Bank of America
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

More than seven years after the global financial collapse, regulators and investors are still working through an epic pile of lawsuits and other civil actions, collecting settlements, fines and other penalties for a long list of wrongdoing.

The latest settlement involved Bank of America, which agreed this week to pay $180 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank and others manipulate foreign-exchange rates, according to The Wall Street Journal. JPMorgan Chase has already settled with the same investor group, while others, including Citigroup, are expected to settle soon, the The Journal notes.

The 2013 lawsuit claimed bank traders shared customer information to profit at their clients’ expense, according to the report.

The settlement follows a seven-year effort by federal and state regulators that included dozens of actions related to a broad range of misconduct and fraud, including bilking mortgage investors, laundering money and evading taxes. So far, banks and other institutions have paid more than $150 billion in fines, settlements and other penalties, according to a tally by the Financial Times.

That compares with roughly $700 billion in profits generated by U.S. banks between 2007 and 2014, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Some of those involved charges against individual bankers. About 70 CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers had been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission as of October, the latest data available. The SEC says it collected $3.6 billion in penalties and other payments related to the charges.

Bank of America
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

More than seven years after the global financial collapse, regulators and investors are still working through an epic pile of lawsuits and other civil actions, collecting settlements, fines and other penalties for a long list of wrongdoing.

The latest settlement involved Bank of America, which agreed this week to pay $180 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank and others manipulate foreign-exchange rates, according to The Wall Street Journal. JPMorgan Chase has already settled with the same investor group, while others, including Citigroup, are expected to settle soon, the The Journal notes.

The 2013 lawsuit claimed bank traders shared customer information to profit at their clients’ expense, according to the report.

The settlement follows a seven-year effort by federal and state regulators that included dozens of actions related to a broad range of misconduct and fraud, including bilking mortgage investors, laundering money and evading taxes. So far, banks and other institutions have paid more than $150 billion in fines, settlements and other penalties, according to a tally by the Financial Times.

That compares with roughly $700 billion in profits generated by U.S. banks between 2007 and 2014, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Some of those involved charges against individual bankers. About 70 CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers had been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission as of October, the latest data available. The SEC says it collected $3.6 billion in penalties and other payments related to the charges.

The biggest payments have gone to the Justice Department, which has collected some $50 billion, according to the FT tally.

Among the banks paying the biggest amounts, Bank of America tops the list—with nearly $58 billion, followed by JPMorgan Chase ($31.3 billion), Citigroup ($12.8 billion) and Wells Fargo ($9.7 billion).

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