November 5, 2012Congressman Brad Sherman
5000 Van Nuys Blvd. - Suite 420Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Dear Congressman Sherman:
I live in the 27th Congressional District. I know you sit on the House Financial Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, and I know that you also sit on the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity.
Therefore, it seems appropriate that I bring a concern of mine to your attention.
My concern: While reading an article published in the Wall Street Journal on October 2, 2012 titled, New York Firm to Buy Fannie Foreclosures By Alan Zibel, I noticed the author mentioned the terms were the same for both of Fannie Mae’s first two ‘bulk sales’ (of foreclosed single family homes). An outline of the terms of the deals was provided in the article (the last four paragraphs of the article).
It seems the terms of these first two bulk sales may lead to an uncertain, and very long payback period to for the GSE’s - and an even riskier and even longer payback period for any investor(s) that might be the source of funds for the managers of these deals. As long as the deal terms are fully-disclosed to the fund's (voluntary) investors their investments are their business.
However, because of the history of Federal Housing Policy, and because of the history of the GSE’s, I believe deals such as these should be designed in a way which can actually be expected to produce rapid and less risky payment of the purchase price, than it appears the terms of the first two deals will produce.
I hope the committees you sit on will very closely review and monitor these two existing deals, and that you will have independent evaluators advise on, and audit, the structure and payment of future bulk sales of foreclosed single family homes.
The bulk sale of foreclosed single family homes is a serious concern for homeowners, neighborhoods, and for local legislators. I believe the future financial success of these bulk sales is a critical element of the bulk sales strategy.
In the context of the GSA’s, it appears the terms of these first two deals were designed to move foreclosed homes off the GSE’s balance sheet, and to claim the 'sales agreement' as an asset.Thank you very much for this opportunity to express my concern.
Cc. Congressman Gary Miller2349 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(1) Private Equity’s Foreclosure Binge (& Purge) By Michael L Boyer pub. at Seeking Alpha, October 23, 2012 - at: http://seekingalpha.com/article/941291-private-equity-s-foreclosure-binge-purge#comments_header
(2) The Institutional Home Buying Bubble By Bill George - Posterous - at:
The change to mark-to-market accounting for certain classes of financial assets (GAAP) has been delayed by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) - with pressure from the U.S. Congress and bank lobbyists (see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124396078596677535.html). So, the necessity to actually account for these bank assets' true market value is currently suspended.
If a mortgage owner is a bank and the bank forecloses, the process for re-pricing the asset begins. And, the amount of the loss on the asset would then reduce the calculated bank reserves and force the regulators to require the bank to add more reserves. Under present market conditions this would not be a good thing for the bank, or for the U.S. Government. (Under present conditions banks which could not raise more reserve assets would be forced into FDIC receivership). And, if banks actually began to foreclose rapidly on all borrowers-in-default the calls for Government Sponsored Agency (GSA) loan insurance payoffs would further complicate the bail-out of the GSA's. Also, the demand for private mortgage insurance payoffs would put further stress on private mortgage insurers and impose additional stress on the financial system in general (and probably require private insurers to increase their required reserves).
Another reason banks might avoid foreclosing on a borrower-in-default is that judges are becoming a bit cantankerous. Judges have begun to force loan modifications, mandate cram-downs, and in the absence of good physical documentation proving a bank or investor actually owns the loan, some judges have even awarded property to the (supposed) borrower when the loan documentation is missing, flawed or incomplete.
It seems that the rush to originate loans, slice-and-dice loan tranches, construct CMO derivatives, track ownership, and re-register frequently traded CMO's (in the electronic registration system) led some necessary loan details, and even some complete documentation, to "go missing". So banks and investors are beginning to see foreclosure as a risky and potentially expensive option. (see: 10/24/09 NYT article by Gretchen Morgensen titled, "If Lenders Say 'The Dog Ate Your Mortgage' " at> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/business/economy/25gret.html )
Another subtlety, as long as the bank allows the borrower-in-default to stay in the home the mortgage investor (bank or CMO investor) is not as greatly exposed to losses from theft, vandalism and gross depreciation of real estate value due to non-maintenance of the property.
Also, by not foreclosing on borrowers-in-default the lender avoids becoming the owner of the property and thus avoids direct liability for property taxes, HOA Fees, and some of the more recently imposed municipality assessments levied against investors who now own foreclosed property (see: http://www.dlapiper.com/miami-dade_foreclosure_ordinances/ for another example see mosquito abatement fees in some areas of California - Indio, Palm Springs, Stockton, Mountain House, etc.)
If the "shadow inventory" came to the market all at once demand would be even further overwhelmed by supply causing even more significant price erosion.
It’s logical . . . perhaps corrupt, but logical.
1. See CoreLogic.com at: http://www.corelogic.com/search.aspx?q=shadow+inventory
2. The Case-Shiller S&P Home Price Index is published on the last Tuesday of the month with a two month time lag in reporting for data gathering and data analysis, at: http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/sp-case-shiller-home-price-indices/en...
3. Also see, YouTube video The Impact of The Delay in Implementing FAS#157 at:
4. And, watch the YouTube video The Short Sale Conundrum - Mortgage Servicers’ Misaligned Incentives at:
5. Re: Was the strategy for delaying the pain learned during Japan's 'Lost Decade'? “Geithner worked for Kissinger Associates in Washington for three years and then joined the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury Department in 1988. He went on to serve as an attaché at the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo.” From Wikipedia, Timothy Geithner at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Geithner
6. Watch a brief segment of Georgetown Law Professor Adam Levitin's Congressional testimony titled, "Regulators Don't Want to Know" at:
Part of the problem lies in changes in mortgage processing over the past few decades. Fannie and Freddie rolled out automated-underwriting systems in the mid-1990s that allowed lenders to punch borrower data into computer systems in order to receive faster approvals or denials.The mortgage bust highlighted weaknesses. Fannie and Freddie did few upfront reviews of loans that they purchased; instead, they screened some of those that went bad, forcing banks to buy back any with obvious signs of negligence or fraud.After the meltdown, the mortgage giants began hiring armies of auditors—called "bounty hunters" by bank executives—to conduct detailed reviews of loan files to spot errors that could justify a put-back.deja vu
I commented on an interesting article published September 14, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, How Greenspan Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie. It’s an article based upon an excerpt (written by James Hagerty) from his new book The Fateful History of Fannie Mae: New Deal Birth to Mortgage Crisis Fall By James R. Hagerty.
In December of 2011 the SEC filed lawsuits against several former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the allegations in both of the two lawsuits is that former executives of Fannie and Freddie mis-categorized mortgage loans that were being bought by Fannie and Freddie and that they failed to inform investors and Fannie and Freddie’s regulator [The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] of the true number (percentage and value) of Sub-Prime and Alt-A loans they purchased.
So, it’s not that shocking that most people who believed what Fannie and Freddie were telling them didn’t know of the significant default risk.
Only people like Michael Burry(2) Laurence Fink(3) John Paulson(4) and perhaps Stanford Kurland(5) who actually studied (or were aware of) the progressively diminishing mortgage qualification standards as the bubble formed, and who studied (or were aware of) the actual mortgage borrower income statistics, were prescient enough to become alarmed about Fannie and Freddie’s exposure to default risk.
Based upon what Fannie and Freddie were claiming as their mortgage loan quality, It should be no surprise that Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary, John Snow and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFEO] were more concerned about the impact of credit rate risk and accounting fraud at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than they seem to have been about default risk.(6)
(1) Reference SEC Website SEC CHARGES FORMER FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC EXECUTIVES WITH SECURITIES FRAUD.
(2) Reference, Betting on the Blind Side By Michael Lewis – pub. Vanity Fair Magazine | April 2010.
(3) Reference, Inside the Trillionaires Club at BlackRock pub. Forbes Magazine August 17, 2009. From the article:
LESSON 2: When investments get complex, do your homework:
. . . In late 2006 the company developed a model that put a lower, more realistic number on the incomes subprime borrowers were claiming on their "no doc" loans. The projections were shocking: BlackRock figured that when the loans reset to their new, higher rates in a couple of years, most borrowers would be spending more than half their real incomes on mortgage payments. Foreseeing an avalanche of defaults, BlackRock dumped subprime bonds in early 2007 when the prices were still lofty.
(4) See, John Paulson, Trader Made Billions on Sub-Prime By Gregory Zuckerman pub. Wall Street Journal January 15, 2008.
(5) See, Stanford Kurland - Former Countrywide No.2 Sees Opportunity in Troubled Mortgages By Matthew Padilla Orange County Register - June 10, 2008. From the article:
Q. How did this venture come about?
A. I was somewhat in a state of retirement. I left Countrywide in 2006 after 27 years. From the sidelines, I was watching the mortgage market meltdown and was in communication with associates of mine over what it was going to take to improve or revitalize the mortgage market. Wall Street firms were reaching out to me on whether I had an interest in participating with them. I got a call from the chairman of BlackRock, Laurence Fink, who asked if I would meet a group of executives who were talking about how to address issues in the mortgage market, and they were working with another company (Highfields Capital Management).
I was very receptive to talking to Larry Fink. We had grown up together and have been friends since grade school days.
Q. Where did you and Mr. Fink grow up?
A. We grew up in Van Nuys. That’s the valley.
(6) See, YouTube video-clip, Timeline: George Bush, John McCain Warn Democrats of Housing Crisis, at:
In this PBS NewsHour video-clip aired January 21, 1998 President Bill Clinton points to his accomplishment of having his 'regulators' force banks to grant loans to applicants to whom the banks would not have otherwise granted loans.
In this video-clip President Clinton, claims that 85% of the loans issued under the guidelines of the (then 20 plus year old) Community Reinvestment Act were issued during his first five years in office.
Is it any wonder that the GSE's, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under direction from Clinton and his two administration's HUD Chairmen, Henry Cisneros, and later Andrew Cuomo, continued lowering the standards for loans they would purchase from mortgage originators?
And, is it any wonder that investment banking interests devised ways to 'package' large numbers of mortgage loans into "tranches" of different risk level in order to diversify the risk they were being pressured through regulatory mandate, and political persuasion, to accept?
Notice that Clinton mentions this activity was not necessarily an affirmative action or civil rights oriented activity, but rather that it had significant impact on the economy. . . .
See, The Community Reinvestment Act, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act
Bill Clinton's Drive to Increase Homeownership Went Way Too Far By Peter Coy -pub. in Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2/28/2008, at: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2008/02/clintons_...
Bill Clinton, Wanted For Crimes Against Our Economy By Jim Newman pub. 2/27/2012, at: http://kayleighmcenany.com/2012/02/27/jim-newman-bill-clinton-wanted-for-crimes-against-our-economy/
Key words search for: Janet Reno threatens banks
When home prices begin to fall, a natural level of weak support may develop around a loan-to-value ratio of one. That is, when equity in a home approaches zero, the homeowner ought to become reluctant to sell. History suggests any such strategy should prove foolhardy. Trends in housing tend to be long and headstrong, and hence not easily resisted…The development of significantly negative home equity among the same homeowners that also comprise the world’s most voracious consumers would likely trigger several economic problems…banks would become reluctant to lend to home buyers. The effect would be to contract the credit available to would-be homeowners and therefore severely undercut the main late-cycle driver of demand…These problems would compound the worsening domestic employment situation, further reducing demand for residential housing and thereby producing the requisite positive feedback loop that historically has allowed burgeoning asset deflation to accelerate. As the real estate deflation wears on, it would not be unreasonable to expect that unemployment-induced income shocks mix in toxic fashion with the comparatively high mobility tolerance of the United States citizenry, motivating homeowners to start sending their keys to the bank in ever-increasing numbers. Many banks taking possession of increasing amounts of real estate will ultimately fail themselves. A catharsis could then take shape, and home prices would leg down yet again. After much pain both despair and disgust will settle in, and a bottom would begin to form.-Scion 2Q 2003 Letter to Investors
BUSINESS DAY | February 05, 2012
A Mortgage Tornado Warning, Unheeded
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Inspired by a personal experience, a businessman began delving into the practices of the mortgage industry, including Fannie Mae. His findings have been prescient.
Ms. Morgenson:Regarding MERS, a few months ago I read that MERS was actually conceived by Fannie Mae and the concept was described in a presentation given at a Mortgage Bankers Association convention in 1993 or 1994. The article claimed Fannie got positive feedback on the MERS concept from the mortgage bankers. The article claimed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac then funded the development of MERS with contributions of 2 million dollars each. After MERS was 'brought live' Fannie and Freddie invited large mortgage industry members to join MERS on a subscription basis.I've searched again for the article(s) recently, but I haven't been able to find the articles that described the actual creation of MERS. Perhaps the articles have been "scrubbed".What I read seems to confirm the leadership role that Fannie and Freddie had, and the ways these two GSE's influenced and led the industry, and how they shaped practices in the industry. You might find the two articles referenced below interesting:Is FM Watch a Crusader With an Agenda? By Louis Sichelman – RealtyTimes, pub. 7/5/1999 at: http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/19990705_fmwatch.htmNew Alliance Confronts FM Watch, Champions Existing Housing Finance System By Broderick Perkins RealtyTimes, pub. 10/5/2000> http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20001005_fmwatch.htm
During a December 15, 2010 U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing witnesses gave testimony on issues relating to "Mortgage Servicing and Foreclosure Practices".1
A critical focus of the testimony and discussion was apparent problems with the recordation of land title and note ownership. Witnesses claimed that the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS)2 has failed to reliably record changes in title and note ownership (chain-of-title). The accompanying video-clip is a segment from the C-SPAN video of the hearing:
If you are not familiar with MERS do a key-word-search for more information.
1. see, C-SPAN Video Library, Mortgage Servicing and Foreclosure Practices House of Representatives Judiciary Committee December 15, 2010 at: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/297095-1
2. see, Washington Post - October 8, 2010 article titled, Reston Based Company MERS in Middle of Foreclosure Chaos By Brady Dennis and Ariana Eunjun Cha at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/07/AR2010100702742.html