Looming losses from ForeclosureGate qualify as the sort of systemic risk warranting the breakup of the too-big-to-fail banks under the new Financial Reform Bill. The Kanjorski amendment provides that federal regulators can preemptively break up large financial institutions that -- for any reason -- pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Although downplayed by most media accounts and popular financial analysts, crippling bank losses from foreclosure flaws appear to be imminent and unavoidable. The defects prompting the "RoboSigning Scandal" are not mere technicalities but are inherent to the securitization process. They cannot be cured . This deep-seated fraud is already explicitly outlined in publicly available lawsuits.
There is, however, no need to panic; no need for TARP II; and no need for legislation to further conceal the fraud and push the inevitable failure of the too-big-to-fail banks into the future.
Federal regulators now have the tools to take control and set things right. The Wall Street giants escaped the Volcker Rule, which would have limited their size, and the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have broken up the largest six banks outright; but the Financial Reform Bill has us covered. T he Kanjorski amendment -- which slipped past lobbyists largely unnoticed -- provides that federal regulators can preemptively break up large financial institutions that pose a threat to U.S. financial or economic stability.
Rep. Grayson's Call for a Moratorium
The new Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) probably didn't expect to have its authority called on quite so soon, but Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has just put the amendment to the test. On October 7, in a letter addressed to Timothy Geithner, Shiela Bair, Ben Bernanke, Mary Schapiro, John Walsh (Acting Comptroller of the Currency), Gary Gensler, Ed DeMarco (FHA) and Debbie Matz (National Credit Union Administration), he asked for an emergency task force on foreclosure fraud. He said:
"The liability here for the major banks is potentially enormous, and can lead to a systemic risk. Fortunately, the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation includes a resolution process for these banks. More importantly, these foreclosures are devastating neighborhoods, families, and cities all over the country. Each foreclosure costs tens of thousands of dollars to a municipality, lowers property values, and makes bank failures more likely."
Grayson sought a foreclosure moratorium on all mortgages originated and securitized between 2005-2008, until such time as the FSOC task force was able to understand and mitigate the systemic risk posed by the foreclosure fraud crisis. But on Sunday, White House adviser David Axelrod downplayed the need for a national foreclosure moratorium, saying the Administration was pressing lenders to accelerate their reviews of foreclosures to determine which ones have flawed documentation. "Our hope is this moves rapidly and that this gets unwound very, very quickly," he said.
According to Brian Moynihan, chief executive of Bank of America, "The amount of work required is a matter of a few weeks. A few weeks we'll be through the process of double checking the pieces of paper we need to double check."
"Absurd," say critics such as Max Gardner III of Shelby, North Carolina. Gardner is considered one of the country's top consumer bankruptcy attorneys. "This is not an oops. This is not a technical problem. This is not even sloppiness," he says. The problem is endemic, and its effects will be felt for years.
According to Martin Mandelman , Gardner tells attorneys he advises that if they ever find a case where the mortgage note was correctly endorsed to the trust bringing foreclosure, they should "bronze it and hang it on their wall."
Rep. Grayson makes similar allegations. He writes:
"The banks didn't keep good records, and there is good reason to believe in many if not virtually all cases during this period, failed to transfer the notes, which is the borrower IOUs in accordance with the requirements of their own pooling and servicing agreements. As a result, the notes may be put out of eligibility for the trust under New York law, which governs these securitizations. Potential cures for the note may, according to certain legal experts, be contrary to IRS rules governing REMICs. As a result, loan servicers and trusts simply lack standing to foreclose. The remedy has been foreclosure fraud, including the widespread fabrication of documents.
"There are now trillions of dollars of securitizations of these loans in the hands of investors. The trusts holding these loans are in a legal gray area, as the mortgage titles were never officially transferred to the trusts. The result of this is foreclosure fraud on a massive scale, including foreclosures on people without mortgages or who are on time with their payments." [Emphasis added.]