Mortgage Industry as the Wolf?

Mortgage Companies as Wolves
Mortgage Companies as Wolves
Mortgage Industry as the Wolf?

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

For more than a year, housing advocates and their allies worried that a review of foreclosed loans managed by banking regulators was vulnerable to mortgage industry interference.

On Monday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board — the two regulatory bodies that had taken the lead in making the nation’s largest banks accountable for rampant foreclosure fraud — announced that homeowners no longer need worry about the independence of the reviews. The regulators, essentially admitting that the reviews were too difficult to conduct, and that assigning appropriate compensation to those most harmed by the banks was no longer a priority, said the mortgage companies themselves will determine how to distribute $3.3 billion to more than 4 million homeowners forced into foreclosure in 2009 or 2010.

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

“The regulators have decided to replace the fox in the henhouse with the wolf,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based housing nonprofit. “It is just incomprehensible to me that they could not find a third party that has the wherewithal and independence to fairly determine what the damage is to homeowners.”

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

Is this good business ethics? Well, let’s look at it from the mortgage companies’ point of view. They made an enormous profit by misleading courts and mortgage holders as to who actually owned the property. In many cases, they told clients that they should skip payments, usually three payments, explaining to them that they would then qualify for government programs like HAMP. Once the home owner had skipped the payments, the bank immediately foreclosed. It terms of money, it was an incredible success.

Let’s analyze based on the Social Responsibility. Social responsibility rests on four pillars: economic, legal, philanthropic, ethical, and philanthropic.

Did the mortgage companies profit? Yes, but it depends on which stakeholders you look at. The shareholders did well. The employees did very well. The customers, at least as far as mortgage holders, were crushed. They are unlikely to ever be customers again. It is very difficult for families to buy a home in the first place. A second bite after foreclosure is not likely. The community was hurt badly by the thousands of empty homes, the collapse of the housing industry and the larger economic bust.

But let us have a special look at our last major shareholder, the regulatory agencies. They came, they saw, they said it was too difficult and gave it all back to the banks after extracting a promise that the banks will be good and give back 3.3 billion of the money they stole in the first place. It would appear the regulators are doing okay. They have shed their responsibilities to the public, which is always much easier than doing your job.

Was it legal? No. The banks violated the law thousands of times, perhaps hundreds of thousands. They lied routinely in official documents requiring affidavits and, for all intents and purposes, were in the business of stealing homes. They have, however, walked away unscathed.

Was it ethical? You have lying on a cosmic scale and theft of the property in the many billions of dollars. I don’t feel further analysis is required here.

And finally, was it philanthropic? Did they give back to the community? This is a pure case of negative philanthropy. The banks often had no concept of what to with the homes they took. They often didn’t care for them. Sometimes, they found it cheaper just to bulldoze them. They took value out of the community and replaced it with negative costs.

This is another sorry episode, which I will wonder if it is wise to mention to my business students? Should I tell them that stealing people’s homes will make you enormously rich while you with virtually no penalties? I am honest. I will. But I would rather not have negative business ethics taught so well by the mortgage companies. It makes what I do look foolish.

James Pilant

From the web site, The Support Center:

Major banks have once again agreed to a settlement, this time worth $8.5 billion, to compensate homeowners whose homes were fraudulently foreclosed upon in 2009 and 2010 through practices such as “robo-signing.” JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and and Wells Fargo will pay $3.3 billion to homeowners, and the remaining $5.3 billion will reduce mortgage bills and forgive principals on homes that were sold for less than what the owners owed on their mortgages. 3.8 million homeowners will be eligible to receive compensation ranging from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $125,000.

In another settlement, Bank of America has agreed to pay the federal housing finance agency, Fannie Mae, $11 billion for selling the agency bad mortgages that defaulted, causing Fannie Mae to assume all the losses. $3.6 billion will be used to compensate for the bad mortgages, and $6.75 billion will be used to buy back mortgages.

Both of these agreements are part of a process to mitigate the impacts of the housing crisis and to hold the banks accountable for their role in both creating the housing bubble and in using questionable, if not fraudulent, methods in servicing their loans and processing foreclosures. Having faced significant losses, Bank of America continues to move out of the mortgage market, and in the deal with Fannie Mae, it agreed to sell the servicing and collection rights for 2 million loans, totaling $306 billion. Some economists and analysts are concerned that as the major banks shift away from mortgage lending, the industry is being consolidated into the hands of a few banks. However, though the housing market is recovering slowly, banks, such as Bank of America, might not be in a position to compete, given the losses they’ve already incurred and the problems they’ve had in servicing loans.

From the web site, Buzz Sourse:

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

“The regulators have decided to replace the fox in the henhouse with the wolf,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based housing nonprofit. “It is just incomprehensible to me that they could not find a third party that has the wherewithal and independence to fairly determine what the damage is to homeowners.”

Regulators said the review process, which sought to determine if specific loans were unfairly foreclosed upon, was too costly and time-consuming. Under the new deal, 10 mortgage companies, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, will pay $8.5 billion. Of that, $3.3 billion is earmarked for direct payments to “eligible borrowers” whose foreclosures were handled improperly. The remaining $5.2 billion will help struggling borrowers with programs such as loan modifications.

And finally, from the web site, 4Closure Fraud (reprinted from ProPublica):

The Independent Foreclosure Review was supposed to be a full and fair investigation of the big banks’ foreclosure abuses, and it was trumpeted as the government’s largest effort to compensate victimized homeowners. Federal regulators, who designed the review, forced banks to spend billions to carry it out. Millions of homeowners were eligible and hundreds of thousands submitted claims. But Monday morning, the very regulators who launched the program 18 months ago announced that it had all been a massive mistake and shut it down.

Instead, 10 banks have agreed to pay a total of $3.3 billion in cash to the 3.8 million borrowers who had been eligible for the review. That’s an average of around $870 per borrower. But typical of a process that’s been characterized by confusion, delays and secrecy, regulators said the details of how the money will be doled out were not yet available.

The headline number for the settlement is $8.5 billion, but that includes $5.2 billion in “credits” the banks will receive for actions they take to avoid foreclosures, such as providing loan modifications. That’s very similar to the separate $25 billion settlement reached last year between five banks, 49 states and the federal government. That settlement has been criticized for awarding credit to banks for things they were already doing.

 

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