Monday, October 4, 2010

Wall Street Sell-Off; Foreclosure Fraud Issue Grows

Investors weren't interested in buying much of anything on Monday. In fact, the selling pressure persisted from the opening bell to the close as the major indices took a turn lower.

Selling was broad-based with most of the blame placed upon the rising US dollar, as inside players unloaded some of their more profitable trades built up over the past month. With stocks up roughly 9% in September, October should, by shear market dynamics - or, what's left of them in this low-volume regime - revert to the mean, suggesting a 5-7% decline in stocks overall, though a complete reversal cannot be ruled out.

Dow 10,751.27, -78.41 (0.72%)
NASDAQ 2,344.52, -26.23 (1.11%)
S&P 500 1,137.03, -9.21 (0.80%)
NYSE Composite 7,272.53, -63.38(0.86%)

Decliners finished well ahead of advancing issues, 4312-1529. New highs maintained their large edge over new lows, 304-41. Volume was dull, at best.

NASDAQ Volume 1,922,075,250
NYSE Volume 3,770,310,500

Oil, which had traded higher through most of the session, fell victim to heavy selling pressure, losing 11 cents, to $81.47. Precious metals took a bit of a breather, with gold off $1.00, to $1,316.80, and silver losing 2 cents, to $22.04.

Gaining momentum was the ongoing foreclosure fraud story, which is larger than the mainstream media wishes to believe. Late Friday, the nation's largest mortgage servicer, Bank of America, announced that they were halting foreclosures in the 23 states which have judicial foreclosure processes. This news came late in the day, on a report that one of their employees admitted to signing as many as 8000 affadavits in a month without reading their contents.

This was the same kind of issue which caused Ally Bank - formerly GMAC - and JP Morgan Chase to halt foreclosure proceedings in the same states earlier last week.

Over the weekend it was learned that title insurers were in communication with officials from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, over the issue of clouded titles on homes sold post-foreclosure, some even going so far as to deny writing title insurance on some properties.

The issue enlarges when one considers the overall ramifications of falsifying documents. The very banks which began the mess by issuing bad mortgage products to unqualified buyers - knowing they had a high risk of default - and then packaging the mortgages into security instruments sold to equally in-the-dark investors, are now attempting to rush through the foreclosure process with another round of fraud, in the form of faulty paperwork submitted to courts across the country.

At the very heart of the issue is ownership, or title, to the properties. When the banks securitized these mortgages, they separated the mortgage from the note, a practice long held to cause title issues, and never before attempted.

Allegations that the banks had this purpose in mind all along, defrauding the note-holders as well as the home-buyers, are gaining traction in legal circles. Some states are calling for complete moratorium on foreclosures until the depth of the fraud is revealed.

What is not occurring are calls for criminal prosecution of the banks which engaged in the practice of defrauding courts, though it appears clear that the practice of rushing paperwork without due diligence - thus denying due process - was as widespread as the subprime and 80/20 loans the banks were pushing and securitizing years earlier.

There should be no downplaying of the seriousness of the issue, though there was no mention of the scandal - and a scandal it indeed is - on any of the Sunday talk shows, weekend nightly news shows nor Monday morning talk programs from the major networks.

If titles to homes are in such a state of confusion that the chain of ownership cannot be maintained, identified and indemnified, the variety and scope of claims and counter-claims threatens to clog the court system for years, which, in a cynical way, might be what the unscrupulous banking interests wanted from the very start.

Without oversight and regulation, this is what happens to money and markets. Insidious operators will take advantage of loose regulations and loopholes and drive billions through them in dirty transactions, which is what appears to have happened on Wall Street, in county clerk offices and courtrooms across the country.

In a perverse kind of way, this overhanging, unresolved issue, one which threatens the entire banking and credit system again, may have been the hidden catalyst behind plenty of today's equity sales.

This scandal is only beginning, with much more to be revealed in coming weeks and months. with elections front and center, and a questionable terror alert being issued by the US, conspriacy theorists are having a field day trying to tie all of this together. It does make perfect sense that politicians and banksters, working in cohort behind the scenes, would attempt to either delay more allegations of fraud or blow them up prior to the elections, depending on the style of tin-foil of your particular hat.

Fraud should be taken seriously, however, though when it comes to banks, they apparently can get away with just about anything, calling it "procedural errors" or "paperwork issues." In the end, the truth will come out, and the US economy will be the worse for it.

No comments: