Category Archives: Real estate

Bill Black: The DOJ and the SEC Spurn their Ace in the Hole – Richard Bowen

This is the second post in a devastating series on why major banks and their executives got away with large-scale, systematic fraud in the runup to the crisis. Bill Black uses Citigroup whistleblower Richard Bowen as a case example of how derelict the DOJ and SEC were in the performance of their duties.

Here, Black describes how historically frauds and criminal conduct were pursued primarily by regulators and the FBI. However, not only were regulations were weakened, but the Bush Administration ended criminal referrals: “References to the criminal referral coordinators disappeared or were removed from the bank examiners’ manuals.” FBI staffing for white collar crime was cut drastically as the war on terror was given precedence.

That meant, as Black describes, whistleblowers became more important than ever as not just a source of information for civil and criminal prosecutions, but as key witnesses. Yet in many cases they are problematic. They are often disaffected former employees who call out the bad conduct they saw after they were terminated, or were so badly roughed up by their former employer for becoming an internal dissident that they were traumatized and don’t hold up well on the stand. Hence, as Black explains, the failure to take advantage of a stellar whistleblower like Richard Bowen. As Bowen put it, “Not only did they bury my testimony, they locked it up.”

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Billl Black: The Lessons Richard Bowen’s FCIC Testimony Should Have Taught the Nation

Get a cup of coffee. This important post gives an in-depth analysis that helps explain how bad conduct was covered up or glossed over by the FCIC, and how much of the media fell in line with the official, sanitized story.

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Tom Adams: Ocwen’s Servicing Meltdown Proves Failure of Obama’s Mortgage Settlements

Rather than listen to thousands of borrower complaints, housing advocates, foreclosure attorneys, market experts and, well…, us, the Obama Administration tried to paper over the many problems in the mortgage servicing market by creating the foreclosure settlement (officially the National Mortgage Settlementof 2012), as well as the earlier OCC enforcement actions against big mortgage servicers.

Now we have the disaster of Ocwen, the fifth largest servicer in the country, imploding as a result of the settlement charade.

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Wolf Richter: It’s Official – Inflated Home Prices Strangle US Housing Market

Mortgages are hard to get, and inventories of homes for sale are low: Those have been the dominant reasons cited by the industry to rationalize the crummy home sales that have disappointed pundits for over a year. But now those memes have been debunked by homebuyers themselves.

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New York’s Benjamin Lawsky Forces Resignation of CEO of Mortgage Servicer Ocwen Over Wrongful Foreclosures, Shoddy Records and Systems

New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky has forced the resignation of the chairman and CEO of a mortgage servicer, Ocwen over a range of borrower abuses in violation of a previous settlement agreement, including wrongful foreclosures, excessive fees, robosigning, sending out back-dated letters, and maintaining inaccurate records. Lawsky slapped the servicer with other penalties, including $150 million of payments to homeowners and homeowner-assistance program, being subject to extensive oversight by a monitor, changes to the board, and being required to give past and present borrowers access to loan files for free. The latter will prove to be fertile ground for private lawsuits. In addition, the ex-chairman William Erbey, was ordered to quit his chairman post at four related companies over conflicts of interest.

The Ocwen consent order shows Lawksy yet again making good use of his office while other financial services industry regulators are too captured or craven to enforce the law. Unlike other bank settlements, investors saw the Ocwen consent order as serious punishment. Ocwen’s stock price had already fallen by over 60% this year as a result of this probe and unfavorable findings by the national mortgage settlement monitor, Joseph Smith. Ocwen’s shares closed down another 27% on Monday. And that hurts Erbey. From the Wall Street Journal:

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Bill Black: Mortgage Appraisal Fraud is Baaack…Because Bank Execs Profit From It

Yves here. Financiers and their media amplifiers keep trying to blame their bad conduct, like mortgage appraisal fraud, on powerless customers, so people like Bill Black have to keep swatting down their misrepresentations. Sadly, this crisis topic is back all too soon due to lack of regulatory vigilance.

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Elizabeth Warren Blasts FHFA’s Mel Watt: “You Haven’t Helped a Single Family”

Elizabeth Warren tore into FHFA director Mel Watt over his failure to develop a program for Fannie and Freddie to provide principal modifications to underwater borrowers at risk of foreclosure. She also got in a dig for his failure to stop the agencies from pursuing deficiency judgments. That means going after former homeowners when the sale of the house they lost didn’t recoup enough to cover the mortgage balance. In the stone ages, when banks kept the mortgage loans they made, they never pursued deficiency judgements. They knew there was no point in trying to get blood from a turnip. Not surprisingly, the sadistic Fannie/Freddie policy has also proven to be spectacularly unproductive in financial terms. An FHFA inspector general study found that recoveries were less than 1/4 of 1% of the amount sought. Moreover, since those mortgage balances were often inflated by junk fees and other dubious costs, and mortgage servicers have done a poor job of maintain properties (they are too often stripped of copper and appliances, or get mold), any deficiency might be significantly or entirely the servicer’s fault.

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