Attorney Generals in 49 out of 50 states voted for this mortgage settlement. All sounds good on the surface, politicians and banks are coming forth and declaring victory.
Let’s take a closer look. The top 5 banks The signatories to the deal are Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), which handle payments on more than half the nation’s outstanding 27 million home loans and therefore have been at the center of the servicing and foreclosure abuses the settlement is supposed to end.
- How much of this will translate into an outlay of cash by the five banks? Not much, if any.
On the surface it would seem that it is a $25 Billion dollar settlement when in fact it is not. The only cold cash the banks are paying is a combined $5 billion, including $1.5 billion to compensate borrowers whose homes were foreclosed on from 2008 through the end of last year, with the rest going to the federal and state governments to pay for regulatory programs.
Even the government acknowledges that a lender typically benefits when ways are found to keep a home out of foreclosure — a lender loses an average $60,000 on every foreclosure, according to figures the federal government disclosed in connection with the settlement announcement. It’s been institutional resistance and legal entanglements, not economics, that have kept more modifications from going forward.
Many of the loans destined to be modified under the settlement aren’t even owned by the banks, but rather by investors — the banks just collect the checks.
- Investors such as pension funds
- 401(k) plans
- Insurance companies and the like
Parties that did not themselves engage in any of the wrongdoing covered by the settlement.” If I’m an investor, how am I with taking this kind of hair cut? This will not sit too well with the investor community.
What about homeowners? They don’t get much, especially in relation to the scale of the housing crisis.
- More than 2 million owners have lost their homes to foreclosure during the last four years.
- This deal will provide 750,000 with a payment of $2,000 each.
Some 11 million homeowners are underwater by about $700 billion combined, or an average of nearly $65,000 each. In a transport of optimism, federal officials are projecting that this deal will help 2 million of them, to the tune of perhaps $20,000 each. By the way, loans owned by the government-sponsored firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t eligible for this relief. Since they own or control the majority of all outstanding mortgages, that’s a rather large black hole.
Remember though, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are bleeding money every month, and our owned by the government. They have paid out huge bonuses even in these tough economic times. Fannie Mae was the fair-haired child of Barney Frank . You may recall in July of 2008 Barney was on record defending Fannie Mae, how strong they were, and how dare anyone question their motives and financial strength. They collapsed less than 4 months from his statements to the public and Congress.
They were the entities that forced the banks into doing Stated Income Loans, No Assets Loans, NINA or No Income, No Asset Loans. While some may point fingers at the banks, Fannie and Freddie were at the forefront pushing these types of mortgages on the banks, and lenders, trying to increase homeownership to individuals who never should have been put into a house to begin with.
The settlement, meanwhile, provides cover for other stealth bailouts. On Thursday, the day of the big parade, the U.S. Office of the Controller of the Currency quietly settled claims against BofA, Wells Fargo, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase related to cease-and-desist orders the agency issued last year over the banks’ crooked mortgage servicing and foreclosure activities.
The agency says it settled those claims for $394 million. The actual figure is zero. That’s because the agency won’t ask for any of the money as long as the banks meet their obligations under the mortgage settlement. This is the kind of fun with math that helped get us into the housing crisis in the first place.