Monthly Archives: January 2011

FCIC Report Misses Central Issue: Why Was There Demand for Bad Mortgage Loans?

By Tom Adams, an attorney and former monoline executive, and Yves Smith

In common with other accounts of the financial crisis, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report notes that mortgage underwriting standards were abandoned, allowing many more loans to be made. It blames the regulators for not standing pat while this occurred. However, the report fails to ask, let alone answer, why standards were abandoned.

In our view, blaming the regulators is a weak argument.

A much more sensible explanation can be found by asking: what were the financial incentives for such poorly underwritten loans? Why would “the market” want bad loans?

All the report offers as explanation is that the “machine” drove it or “investors” wanted these loans. This is lazy and fails to illuminate anything, particularly when there are other red flags in the report, such as numerous mortgage market participants pointing to growing problems starting as early as 2003. Signs of recklessness were more visible in 2004 and 2005, to the point were Sabeth Siddique of the Federal Reserve Board, who conducted a survey of mortgage loan quality in late 2005, found the results to be “very alarming”.

So why, with the trouble obvious in the 2005 time frame, did the market create even worse loans in late 2005 through the beginning of the meltdown, in mid 2007, even as demand for better mortgage loans was waning?

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More Judges Pushing Back on Dubious Foreclosure Documents

Even though this example involves only three judges in Ohio, don’t underestimate its significance. The fact that judges of their own initiative have started insisting that all attorneys provide certifications of foreclosure-related documents, a standard now in effect in New York state, shows how much their credibility has fallen.

From the Columbus Dispatch (hat tip reader Lisa Epstein):

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How Banks Influence People in High Places

This e-mail to Congressional staffers speaks for itself. I am probably being far too nice by omitting the RSVP details. However, I must note the ethics rules for Congress are more lax than those of some private sector companies. I had one client, a Fortune 25 company, that forbade all employees from taking gifts or entertainment of any kind from vendors, down to a cup of coffee. And that’s not as nuts as it sounds. Research by social psychologist Robert Cialdini verifies that a gift as small as a can of soda predisposes the recipient to a sales pitch.

From: The Financial Services Roundtable

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John Bougearel: Claims the Job Market Will Boom Are Entirely Unsubstantiated

By John Bougearel, author of Riding the Storm Out and Director of Financial and Equity Research for Structural Logic

A decade ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the U.S. economy would create nearly 22 million net jobs in the 2000s.

Obama said with the benefit of his stimulus measures, the US economy would create three million jobs in 2010. The actual number of jobs created in 2011 was 1.12 million (before final benchmark revisions). Now, the CBO is projecting 2.5 million jobs will be created annually from 2011 to 2015.

Faith in the US gov’t’s ability to create 2.5 million jobs for the next 5 yrs (one of the several silly and preposterous CBO projections) is sorely misplaced. The CBO has sugarplums dancing in their heads. Their 2011-2016 forecast for the US jobs market is disingenuous, misleading poppycock.

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What if China’s GDP is Seriously Overstated?

Michael Pettis has released one of his carefully reasoned posts, this one on the dark art of guesstimating what China’s GDP really is, given the notorious unreliability of its official data.

The strength of Pettis’ approach sometimes works to his advantage. He does a great job in breaking down his arguments to clear, easy to understand, step-by-step reasoning. That tends to make his posts pretty long. In this case, that meant that the part I though was most provocative came towards the end, when impatient readers might have figured they had gotten the drift of his gist and moved on.

In this one, he starts with the last GDP release, and in particular, the implications the fact that its alarmingly high investment rate continues to increase at a stunning clip. But he then turns to the rather tiresome debate as to when China’s economy will overtake that of the US, and discusses the possibility that the GDP figures touted now could well be overstated by a considerable degree:

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Links 1/29/11

Study shows canid is ‘wolf in jackal’s clothing’ BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Cairo in near-anarchy as protesters push to oust president Washington Post

Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising Telegraph (hat tip reader Andrew U)

US Continues to Back Egyptian Dictatorship in the Face of Pro-Democracy Uprising TruthOut (hat tip Marshall Auerback)

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New York Times’ Joe Nocera Blames Crisis on “Mania”, Meaning Victims

I often enjoy Joe Nocera’s take on Wall Street, but like some other well known financial writers, he has become overly close to his subjects. No where is this more evident than in a stunning little aside in an otherwise not bad piece on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commision’s report, which points out that it is long on potentially helpful detail, short on analysis.

Here is the offending section:

But I wonder. Had there been a Dutch Tulip Inquiry Commission nearly four centuries ago, it would no doubt have found tulip salesmen who fraudulently persuaded people to borrow money they could never pay back to buy tulips.

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Bank of America Fighting to Reverse Foreclosure Freeze in Nevada

Peculiarly (and I’ll have to admit I’m among the guilty), a state-wide halt of foreclosures by a Bank of America unit in Nevada earlier in the week attracted remarkably little notice. The number of foreclosures in involved is meaningful, over 8000. The reason may seem somewhat technical, and presumably would not apply to other BofA units, namely, that the entity, ReconTrust Co, is operating without a proper business license. But then it gets interesting.

First, we get Bank of America’s position, per the Las Vegas Review Journal(hat tip ForeclosureFraud):

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