Investors (and Others) Realizing Their Ox is About to be Gored in Mortgage Settlement

Published on nacked capitalism, by Yves Smith, February 3, 2012.

Investors have been remarkably passive as banks and servicers have taken advantage of them. We’ve heard numerous reports of servicer fee abuses that amount to stealing from investors (remember, if you overcharge a stressed borrower and that borrower loses his home, the money in the end comes out of pension funds and 401 (k)s when the excessive fees are deducted from the proceeds of the sale of the home).  

Investors can even see suspicious patterns in investor reports. We’ve also pointed out that they are guaranteed even more pain, since $175 billion of losses that have already recorded on loans in MBS pools have not yet been allocated to the related bonds.

But the fees to manage bond funds are pretty thin, and fixed income investors are generally a risk averse lot, and are not well set up to litigate. But the biggest obstacle to them Doing Something is that they don’t want to rile the banks. They think they need them for information and transaction execution … //

… More amusingly, a Bloomberg report reveals what most insiders know full well, that industry associations that supposedly represent the buy side and the sell side, like the American Securitization Forum and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, really take care only of the sell side, meaning Wall Street. SIFMA’s Asset Management Group, which represents investors, wanted to issue a statement objecting to the use of investor funds to settle bank misdeeds, but it was squelched by management:

  • Wall Street’s biggest lobbying group is split over a proposed settlement of state and federal foreclosure probes, after a committee of money managers signaled it opposes terms letting banks push some costs onto bondholders.
  • The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s Asset Management Group planned to release a statement last week urging government negotiators to protect innocent investors, amid reports that banks will get credit for lowering the balances of mortgages packaged into bonds, three people familiar with the matter said. Sifma’s leadership said no. The panel’s members oversee $20 trillion and include BlackRock (BLK) Inc. and Pacific Investment Management Co.
  • Sifma elected not to issue the statement “because the settlement surrounds potential legal issues involving the commercial interests of many of our members,” said Cheryl Crispen, a spokeswoman for the group in New York. “Sifma generally does not intervene in such matters and remains focused on matters of policy and advocacy.”

What bullshit. This is a “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” statement.

Needless to say, as the propagandizing gets louder, a few lonely voices are decrying the settlement. For instance, Daily Kos had a refreshing piece, “Stop the Delusional Celebration: Victims of Foreclosure Fraud Have Little to Celebrate.” Dave Dayen gets to an aspect of the settlement that I have not had time to cover, namely, that the enforcement is a joke. A story by Loren Berlin and D.M. Levine at Huffington Post remind us “Robo-Signing Settlement Might Not Provide Homeowners With Needed Help.” The short form of their story: the deal looks to be targeting mods to not that deeply underwater borrowers. Addressing a related Administration PR effort, Alan White at Credit Slips, in The Permanent Foreclosure Crisis and Obama’s Refinancing Obsession says, in no uncertain terms, that refis won’t solve the mortgage mess … //

… (full text and related articles).

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