Virginia Reaches $63 Million Pact with 11 Banks in Mortgage Bond Fraud Suit

Reuters | January 22, 2016   A group of 11 banks agreed to pay more than $63 million to settle allegations that they misled the Commonwealth of Virginia and its retirement system about residential mortgage backed-securities, Attorney General Mark R. Herring said on Friday.

The banks, which include two Bank of America Corp units , Morgan Stanley and a unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, defrauded the state's retirement fund by selling it shoddy mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, Virginia's attorney general said in a 2014 lawsuit.

None of banks admitted liability in the settlement, Herring said.

The $63 million pact is the largest non-health care-related sum ever obtained in a suit brought under a Virginia law aimed at curbing fraud against the commonwealth's taxpayers, Herring said in a statement.

In the lawsuit, Herring said an analysis showed nearly 40 percent of the mortgages that backed 220 securities purchased by Virginia's retirement fund were fraudulently represented as posing a lower risk of default than they actually did.  Read more here.

Voices: For Some, Foreclosure Means Free Housing

USA Today - Opinion | January 4, 2016    LAS VEGAS -- I used to think of foreclosure as chillingly final. Then I visited this city, where the slow unspooling of the great housing crash of 2007-2009 is affording free shelter to tens of thousands of people.  Most are living in homes they technically still own, but on which they haven’t made a mortgage payment in months or years; others are squatting illegally in homes that were abandoned by owners who defaulted on mortgages.  These homes are in real estate limbo — in foreclosure, but not actually foreclosed — because many lenders are taking their time completing the process that eventually leads to repossession and resale.  Read more here

Fannie and Freddie Give Birth to New Mortgage Bond

The Wall Street Journal |  December 29, 2015     The federal government is trying to get taxpayers off the hook for billions of dollars of potential losses if another mortgage crisis arrives—and in the process, it is quietly giving birth to a new asset class.

Under government control, mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac next year plan to ramp up sales of new types of securities that in effect transfer potential losses in a housing downturn to private investors.

Called Connecticut Avenue Securities by Fannie Mae and Structured Agency Credit Risk by Freddie Mac, the securities are essentially bonds whose performance is tied to that of a pool of mortgages. If the mortgages default, investors in the bonds could lose some or all of their principal.  Read more here.