This move by GMAC, now Ally, is remarkably brazen. GMAC has effectively said that Massachusetts must hew to its demands of how to deal with foreclosures. It announced it is withdrawing from mortgage lending in the state in an effort to bring it to heel.
GMAC may be in a better position to exercise this sort of threat than other banks. Full service banks have broader business lines, so government bodies in the state could retaliate by moving other business (pension funds, cash management, payment services) from them.
This is very similar to the retaliation described in Gretchen Morgenson and Josh Rosner’s Reckless Endangerment, when Georgia had the temerity to try to pass tough lending laws (emphasis ours):
Standard & Poor’s was the most aggressive of the three agencies, however. And on January 16, 2003, four days after the Georgia General Assembly convened, it dropped a bombshell. Because of the state’s new Fair Lending Act, S&P said that it would no longer allow mortgage loans originated in Georgia to be placed in mortgage securities that it rated. Moody’s and Fitch soon followed with similar warnings.
It was a critical blow. S&P’s move meant Georgia lenders would have no access to the securitization money machine; they would either have to keep the loans they made on their own books, or sell them one by one to other institutions. In turn, they made it clear to the public that there would be fewer mortgages funded, dashing “the dream” of homeownership.
It was an untenable situation for the lenders who had grown addicted to the securitization money spigot. With S&P shutting it off to abusive lenders, it was only a matter of time before the Fair Lending Act was dead.
To Brennan and other consumer advocates, it was a shocking and devastating moment in the battle against predatory lending. “We were stunned when we saw the press release,” Brennan said. “We thought, where does this come from?”
Standard & Poor’s said it was taking action because the new law created liability for any institution that participated in a securitization containing a loan that might be considered predatory. If a Wall Street firm purchased loans that ran afoul of the law and placed them in a mortgage pool, the firm could be liable under the law. Ditto for investors who bought into the pools.
“Transaction parties in securitizations, including depositors, issuers and servicers, might all be subject to penalties for violations under the Georgia Fair Lending Act,” S&P’s press release explained.
It ended with a warning: “Standard & Poor’s will continue to monitor this and other pending predatory lending legislation.” In other words, any states that might have been considering strengthening their predatory lending laws as Georgia did should beware.
GMAC is trying to get other big banks to follow suit. I hope the state and other groups that do substantial financial business with banks (largish churches are also attractive clients) make it clear than any effort to punish the state for enforcing the law will be met by moving their accounts to smaller institutions that respect the law.
From the Wall Street Journal:
GMAC Mortgage, the mortgage lender of Ally Financial Inc., is exiting the vast majority of its lending in Massachusetts a day after the state sued it over its foreclosure practices.
The nation’s fifth-largest mortgage originator said it “has taken this action because recent developments have led mortgage lending in Massachusetts to no longer be viable,” ratcheting up the high-stakes mortgage fight there….
GMAC Mortgage will stop purchasing loans from correspondent lenders and wholesale brokers, which makes up the majority of the company’s business. The lender said it was “disappointed” but that “it has an obligation to manage risks and deploy capital in an appropriate manner and in a way that protects the investment of the U.S. taxpayer.”
Get a load of the sanctimoniousness. Since when do the interests of investors trump the rule of law? In fact, the logic is backwards, since investors are not well protected in a regime where laws are not respected. Does anyone want to invest in, say, Somalia?
Reader MBS Guy notes by e-mail:
Ally will stop lending in the state. Now litigation costs are too high in Massachusetts, according to Ally Bank, which is 74% owned by the US Treasury.
This is a bit funny, since the lawsuit involves issues with loans which were originated and, generally foreclosed, in the past. Ally has said that they have fixed all of their robo-signing issues, so it shouldn’t be a problem for newly originated loans.
Given its ownership structure, is this a pissy message to Massachusetts from Ally itself, or from its majority shareholder for tanking the AG Task Force?
And get a load of this part by an industry mouthpiece:
“It also sends a signal to Massachusetts and other states that if you make it difficult for lenders to act they will take their business elsewhere,” Mr. [Guy] Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance said of GMAC’s decision. “There is no law you have to operate in all 50 states.”
Sorry, for the first decade plus of the private mortgage securitization business, banks and servicers did hew to the requirements of state law. It was only in the late 1990s through 2004 or so that they started to fail to comply with the requirements of their own contracts (the breakdown appears to have taken place over time, with the biggest decay taking place during the 2002-2003 refi boom). That’s what has put their foreclosures on shaky footing, which in turn has led to wideranging legal abuses to get around the mess they created.
The insolence of the securitization industry continues to be astonishing. They act as if they have an imperial right to dictate to governments, and refuse to admit any role in a disaster of their own creation. I hope those of you who do business with Ally close your accounts immediately and tell the bank that it is due to their Mafia style move in Massachusetts.