Monday, August 06, 2007

The System Is Rigged

Read this article in today's NY Times entitled "Mortgage Maze May Increase Foreclosures" to see just how badly the system is rigged against all but the most careful and knowledgeable of consumers. Here's a taste:

In 2003, Dianne Brimmage refinanced the mortgage on her home in Alton, Ill., to consolidate her car and medical bills. Now, struggling with a much higher interest rate and in foreclosure, she wants to modify the terms of the loan.

Lenders have often agreed to such steps in the past because it was in everyone’s interest to avoid foreclosure costs and possibly greater losses. But that was back when local banks held the loans and the bankers knew the homeowners, as well as the value of the properties.

Ms. Brimmage got her loan through a mortgage broker, just the first link in a financial merry-go-round. The mortgage itself was pooled with others and sold to investors — insurance companies, mutual funds and pension funds. A different company processes her loan payments. Yet another company represents the investors as the trustee.

She has gotten nowhere with any of the parties, despite her lawyer’s belief that fraud was involved in the mortgage. Like many other Americans, Ms. Brimmage is a homeowner stuck in foreclosure limbo, at risk of losing the home she has lived in since 1998.

As the housing market weakens and interest rates on adjustable mortgages rise, more and more borrowers are falling behind. Almost 14 percent of subprime borrowers were delinquent in the first quarter of 2007. Investors, fearful that these problems will hurt the overall economy, have retreated from the stock and bond markets, creating major sell-offs.

And the very innovation that made mortgages so easily available — an assembly line process known on Wall Street as securitization — is creating an obstacle for troubled borrowers. As they try to restructure their loans, they are often thwarted, lawyers say, by strict protections put in place for investors who bought the mortgage pools.

This impasse could exacerbate the housing slump, pushing more homeowners into foreclosure. That would lead to a bigger glut of properties for sale, depressing home prices further.

“Securitization led to this explosion of bad loans, and now it is harder to unwind and modify them even where it is in the best interests of both the borrower and the investors,” Kurt Eggert, an associate professor at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif., said in an interview. “The thing that caused the problem is making it harder to solve the problem.”

Creating difficulties is the complex design of mortgage securities.

Some homeowners have problems simply identifying who holds their mortgages. Others find the companies that handle their loan payments, known as servicers, are unresponsive, partly because modifying loans cuts into profits.

Even if circumstances suggest fraud when a loan was made, lawyers say, the various parties protect each other by refusing to produce documents.

Compounding the problem is a law stating that when a loan is passed to another party, that entity cannot be held liable for problems.

“I don’t think there is anything in the entire securitization process that is at all focused on the borrower’s interest,” said Kirsten Keefe, executive director of Americans for Fairness in Lending. “Everything they do is, ‘How are we going to make a profit, and how are we going to secure ourselves against risk?’ ”

These days you have to be an accountant to figure out who owns your mortgage and/or your student loan and you have to be a lawyer to figure out just how your mortgage holder, loan lender, credit card company and bank are fucking you.

It is time for Congress to step in and start to protect the American consumer from the predation of the motherfuckers in the banking, credit card, real estate and mortgage industries and the investors on Wall Street who have helped them STEAL, STEAL, STEAL.

I won't hold my breath waiting for the Congress to act. It will take a complete implosion of the system and a total depression before the scumbags in charge in both Washington and on Wall Street realize just how bad things have gotten for middle and working class Americans.

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