Friday, October 1, 2010

Mortgage, Foreclosure Mess Broadens, Deepens

Following up on yesterday's post, "Should American Homeowners Stop Paying Mortgages?", despite the issues involving apparent widespread fraud by banks originating, servicing and now foreclosing on mortgages being hushed up and brushed aside by the mainstream media, others have taken notice, specifically the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which issued a directive on Thursday ordering seven major banks to review their foreclosure procedures..

The banks include the largest originators and servicers in the industry, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, HSBC, PNC Bank, US Bank and Citibank.

That list should be familiar to most Americans, as they are some of the same entities who shared in taxpayer largesse via the $700 billion TARP program and are known collectively as "too big to fail" (TBTF).

Now under closer scrutiny in the aftermath of the most enormous and hastily-prepared bailout in our nation's history due to passage of new financial regulatory legislation, the banks are apparently not yet well enough feted on taxpayer money and have resorted to outright fraud against homeowners in an effort to enlarge their racketeering activities.

The one question that should be asked, but isn't, is "where is Eric Holder and the Department of Justice?" noticeably absent from even the hint of a comment, inquiry or investigation. The DOJ should have been on the banks like lightning, but instead have turned a blind eye to obvious criminal wrongdoing at some of the nation's most "trusted" companies.

Americans are becoming wise to the idea that these major banking institutions should be trusted with nothing, much less anyone's hard earned dollars being deposited in their vaults. Meanwhile, with elections looming, Attorneys General in a handful of states - like New York, where this post is being written - are too busy running for office to be bothered with mundane details such as protecting the rights of citizen homeowners. Specifically, Andrew Cuomo, the NY AG, is busily running for governor when his office should be calling for a complete and total stoppage to all foreclosure proceedings.

It's not like there haven't been enough flags raised in the state. In Brooklyn, State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack has earned a national reputation as a friend of homeowners and adversary of foreclosure mill attorneys, routinely tossing out cases wherein the plaintiffs have skirted or short-cut legal requirements in foreclosure actions.

Also weighing in on the mortgage mess is Florida Senator Alan Grayson, who released a video outlining the roots of the national catastrophe. Readers can follow the link above or view the embedded clip at the end of this post.

Minnesota senator Al Franken has chimed in with a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, FDIC Chief Sheila Bair and Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking criminal prosecution in the Ally Bank matter.

If it weren't the height of election season, there might be within a few days of a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures, but, with the rhetoric already reaching super-nova status in a number of races, the Obama administration is keeping its distance from this issue, for now.

Once the election is over, expect a flood of moratoria from state leaders and AGs, and a more serious posture from the administration, depending upon the outcome, of course. Our elected leaders don't do anything unless they see a political benefit, so that does not preclude some sort of action by President Obama or the congress in the form of an "October Surprise."

It's a political hot-button issue that has more than its share of adherents and opponents. While the millions facing foreclosure or already having been through that mess, would cheer any kind of action by the federal government, the conservative tea partiers would surely spin it as another bailout or handout and a display of more fiscal irresponsibility.

The upshot is that whatever occurs, expect this issue to continue to explode. Class action lawyers are certain to sniff out the potential for enormous profits in overturning the hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of foreclosure sales made over the past two years, creating a further backlog for already over-stretched courts in the most affected states.

As for the play on the markets this Friday, stocks were buoyed by a number releases off the economic calendar, including the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, which checked in at 68.2, above consensus, and the ISM Index, below estimates at 54.4.

Pushing stocks more than anything else, however, is the continued promise of cheap money supplied by the Fed, sacrificing the value of the dollar with their inflationary death-wish.

Dow 10,829.68, +41.63 (0.39%)
NASDAQ 2,370.75, +2.13 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,146.24, +5.04 (0.44%)
NYSE Composite 7,335.91, +54.84 (0.75%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,937,217,000.00
NYSE Volume 4,457,833,500

Advancing issues clobbered decliners, 3627-2069. There were 410 new highs to a paltry 27 new lows. Volume remained depressed as the trade is being led almost entirely by Hedge Funds, Primary Dealers and High Frequency Traders. Individual investors are nowhere to be found, having been scared off by the 2008 meltdown and the May 6 flash crash.

Speaking of which, the SEC released their preliminary findings into the cause of the flash crash, pinning the blame on an unnamed midwest broker-dealer (Waddell and Reed) in a 151-page report, full of charts and data, though devoid of conclusion or recommendations on how to fix the maze of electronic trading at the heart of the issue.

Commodities went completely bonkers, with oil flying another $1.61, to $81.58; gold setting another record at $1,317.80, up $8.20; and, silver up 24 cents, to $22.06, making another 30-year high.

Savvy investors would be therefore holding gold and silver, plus a raft of foreclosed properties on which they would be paying no mortgage, rent or taxes and use to store oil by the barrel indefinitely, or at least until somebody offers them cash for keys or starts foreclosure proceedings.

We certainly do live in interesting times.

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