How regulators, Republicans and big banks fought for a big increase in lucrative but risky corporate loans

April 6, 2019 | Washington Post Actions by federal regulators and Republicans in Congress over the past two years have paved the way for banks and other financial companies to issue more than $1 trillion in risky corporate loans, sparking fears that Washington and Wall Street are repeating the mistakes made before the financial crisis.

The moves undercut policies put in place by banking regulators six years ago that aimed to prevent high-risk lending from once again damaging the economy. Read more here.

Supreme Court debates the meaning of the term 'debt collector' in a foreclosure protections case dating back to the financial crisis

  • The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a case that dates back to the financial crisis a decade ago.

  • The justices, missing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, attempted to resolve a legal question that could have broad ramifications on hundreds of thousands of Americans who are foreclosed on without a judicial process each year.

  • A key issue in the matter is who or what can be considered a "debt collector."

January 7, 2019 | CNBC Markets are racked by turmoil, and there are signs the booming U.S. economy could slow down later this year. Yet the Supreme Court is reckoning with the lingering fallout from the financial crisis that rocked the global economy a decade ago.

The top court on Monday attempted to resolve a legal question that could have broad ramifications on hundreds of thousands of Americans who are foreclosed on without a judicial process each year. A key issue in the matter is who or what can be considered a "debt collector." Read more here.

Royal Bank of Scotland Reaches $500 Million Settlement with New York Over Mortgage Securities

March 6, 2018  |  CNBC         Royal Bank of Scotland Group has reached a $500 million settlement with New York state to resolve claims over its sale of risky residential mortgage-backed securities that contributed to the 2008 global financial crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said the accord includes a $100 million cash payment to the state, plus $400 million of consumer relief for homeowners and communities.

Schneiderman said RBS admitted to having sold investors residential mortgage-backed securities that did not meet underwriting guidelines, contrary to its representations, and did not comply with applicable laws and regulations.  Link to article here.

Foreclosure Prevention Returns to the Unknown

The New York Times | January 25, 2017        After an eight-year run, a troubled government effort to prevent foreclosures and keep struggling borrowers in their homes came to an end last month.

What happens next will be a Trump-era laboratory experiment in how financial services companies conduct themselves when the regulatory fetters are loosened.

The expired Obama-era program — known as HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program — was widely criticized for its poor execution. Participation was voluntary for banks, and many that opted in did so unenthusiastically. (At one bank, “the floor of the room in which the bank dumped the voluminous unopened HAMP applications actually buckled under the packages’ sheer weight,” according to a scathing oversight report.)

Consumer advocates were also not thrilled; many felt that the program did not go far enough to help troubled homeowners or hold accountable the banks that contributed to their predicaments.

But Republican-led Washington has no intention of replacing it. So now it will be entirely up to the private sector to address a lingering social ill that was brought on by the financial crisis.

Banks and mortgage lenders say they are ready to step in with their own foreclosure-prevention programs, modeled on what they learned from the Obama administration’s effort. Armed with years of new data, financial companies say they now know how to make loan-modification programs successful, for both borrowers — who want to protect their homes — and lenders, who want to limit their losses on delinquent loans headed for default.

“There’s tremendous public good in having an industrywide approach,” said Justin Wiseman, the director of loan administration policy at the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group. “No one wants things to revert to what we had before.”

Still, housing advocates are skeptical, and for good reason: The mortgage industry was largely responsible for HAMP’s shortcomings (as well as for creating the need for the program in the first place). The business has long been littered with errors, confusion and outright abuses.

“We’re going back into uncharted territory,” said Jacob Inwald, the director of foreclosure prevention at Legal Services NYC, which helps low-income residents fight foreclosures and evictions.

Before the government stepped in “it was like the Wild West, with every servicer having their own program,” he said.  Read more here.

Credit Suisse Finalizes $5.3 Billion Mortgage Deal with US

CNBC | January 18, 2017         Credit Suisse formally agreed to pay $5.3 billion to settle with U.S. authorities over claims it misled investors in residential mortgage-backed securities it sold in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Zurich-based Credit Suisse will pay a $2.48 billion cash penalty and provide $2.8 billion in consumer relief, including loan forgiveness and financing for affordable housing, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The bank concedes that it knew it was peddling investments that were likely to fail," Principal Associate Attorney General Bill Baer said in the statement.

Credit Suisse, which had announced the agreement in principle on Dec. 23, said in a statement it was "pleased to have reached an amicable settlement that allows the bank to put this legacy matter behind it."

Shares of Credit Suisse on the Swiss stock exchange closed down 2.5 percent at 15.28 Swiss francs, a steeper drop than the broader European banking sector.

In a statement of facts, Credit Suisse acknowledged it knew the loans it pooled into securities did not meet underwriting guidelines.  Read more here.

 

Spanish Banks Ordered to Repay Customers Over Unfair Mortgages

The New York Times | December 21, 2016         MADRID — Europe’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that customers of banks in Spain can reclaim billions of euros because lenders did not pass on savings from interest rate cuts on variable-rate mortgages, sending shares in several of the country’s top lenders crashing.

The ruling centered on the use of a “floor clause” in Spanish mortgage contracts during the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Such agreements meant that the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage was always held above a predetermined level, regardless of how low central bank rates fell.

Spain’s lenders began to use the clauses in 2009, after the global financial crisis pushed central banks around the world to slash interest rates. That helped preserve bank profit margins but failed to pass rate cuts on to customers beyond a certain level.

In 2013, Spain’s supreme court ruled that such deals were illegal, in part because the country’s banks did not adequately explain them to customers. The court did not, however, penalize lenders retroactively.

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday confirmed that the agreements were illegal, but went further by ruling that customers could claim reimbursement, without any time limit, for all payments made at a rate that was judged to be too high.

The decision, which cannot be appealed, means Spain’s banks could have to return 4.5 billion euros, or about $4.68 billion, to customers, according to Afi, a Spanish financial consultancy.  Read more here.

How Housing’s New Players Spiraled Into Banks’ Old Mistakes

Some private equity firms that came in as the cleanup crew for the housing crisis are now repeating errors that banks committed, while others are bypassing the working poor.

New York Times   |  June 26, 2016       When the housing crisis sent the American economy to the brink of disaster in 2008, millions of people lost their homes. The banking system had failed homeowners and their families.

New investors soon swept in — mainly private equity firms — promising to do better.

But some of these new investors are repeating the mistakes that banks committed throughout the housing crisis, an investigation by The New York Times has found. They are quickly foreclosing on homeowners. They are losing families’ mortgage paperwork, much as the banks did. And many of these practices were enabled by the federal government, which sold tens of thousands of discounted mortgages to private equity investors, while making few demands on how they treated struggling homeowners.

The rising importance of private equity in the housing market is one of the most consequential transformations of the post-crisis American financial landscape. A home, after all, is the single largest investment most families will ever make.

Private equity firms, and the mortgage companies they own, face less oversight than the banks. And yet they are the cleanup crew for the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

Out of the more than a dozen private equity firms operating in the housing industry, The Times examined three of the largest to assess their impact on homeowners and renters.   Read more here.

Why More Widowed Homeowners are Struggling to Prevent a Foreclosure

Los Angeles Times |  May 3, 2016      When Jesus Sequeira's wife, Yadira, died in 2008 from lung cancer, times soon grew tough.

Sequeira said his income plunged, leaving him unable to pay the mortgage on the couple's Canyon Country home when payments more than doubled a year later.

Sequeira hoped a loan modification might save him, but there was a glitch: Even though he was listed on the title, only his wife was on the mortgage note — a setup Sequeira said a Countrywide Financial employee suggested given her superior credit.

The arrangement, he said, turned efforts to secure a modification into a multiyear red-tape nightmare that may end in a trustee sale scheduled for May 11.  Read more here.

 

UBS Blamed in U.S. Trial for $2.1 Billion in Mortgage Bond Losses

Reuters | April 18, 2016     UBS AG went to trial on Monday over $2.1 billion in losses that investors incurred on mortgage-backed securities after the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

The non-jury trial in Manhattan federal court stems from a lawsuit being pursued by U.S. Bancorp on behalf of three trusts established for mortgage-backed securities, the type of financial product at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis.

Sean Baldwin, the trusts' lawyer, in his opening statement said UBS contractually agreed that the mortgages underlying those securities would meet certain standards. When pervasive defects emerged, the bank refused to buy them back, he said.

"UBS's strategy has always been the same throughout this process: Turn a blind eye to the problems and ignore its contractual obligations," he said.

But Thomas Nolan, a lawyer for UBS, told U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel that the trusts' lawyers were looking at the loans with a "hindsight bias," and the question was whether the loans were seen as defective when they were issued in 2006 and 2007.

"Sophisticated parties on both sides knew what they were getting into," Nolan said.

The case is one of a handful to go to trial in recent years over losses incurred on mortgage bonds following the U.S. housing market meltdown.  Read more here.

JPMorgan Getting Back in the RMBS Game

New securities would be bank's first “house transaction” since the financial crisis

The Real Deal |  March 16, 2016     JPMorgan Chase is dipping back into the mortgage-backed securities market in the banking giant’s first “house transaction” since the financial crisis.

JPMorgan is expected to price a new residential mortgage-backed securities deal, which would pass along most of the credit risk on $1.9 billion in mortgages owned by the bank, over the next two weeks. JPMorgan would hold 90 percent of the deal, keeping the most senior tranches, while selling off riskier pieces to investors.

The deal would be JPMorgan’s first “house transaction,” entirely backed by mortgages it owns, since the financial crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal. The pool backing the securities includes a mix of more than 6,000 mortgages, around 75 percent of which conform with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underwriting standards.  Read more here.