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Posts Tagged ‘Mortgage Cram-Down’

UPDATE: Mortgage Modifications Leading to Mortgage Cram-Downs

Posted by Larry Doyle on December 11th, 2009 11:38 AM |

Despite overwhelming efforts on the part of Uncle Sam, the simple fact of the matter is the program to successfully and permanently modify mortgages has not gained truly meaningful traction. Public pressure on mortgage servicers specifically and the mortgage modification program at large have generated a slight, but hardly significant, increase in permanent modifications over the last month. Let’s review the statistics provided by Uncle Sam’s Making Home Affordable Program:

Senate Approves Safe Harbor Mortgage Modification; Property Rights? What’s That?

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 6th, 2009 3:55 PM |

The assault on property rights continues as the Senate just passed the Safe Harbor Mortgage Modification legislation. Recall how I wrote the other day in Mortgage Magic or Mortgage Mayhem that this legislation would protect mortgage servicers from suit by mortgage investors.

Why would investors sue servicers? Servicers are charged with processing monthly principal and interest payments of mortgages and distributing the cash flow to investors. If they do not perform, then to this point they would and should be sued. Investors have the right to those payments for which they committed their funds.

The Safe Harbor Mortgage Modification legislation will protect servicers from lawsuits in the cases where mortgages have been modified and investors’ interests supposedly remain protected. One would think that covers all the bases. As I highlighted, however, the legislation may very well promote self-dealing amongst a number of the larger banks which both service mortgages and hold second mortgages.

From Bloomberg’s article, Senate Defeats TARP Measures To Move Safe-Harbor Bill:

The Mortgage Bankers Association and consumer advocates have endorsed the safe-harbor provision to protect mortgage servicing companies from being sued by mortgage-bond investors if they modify loans in accordance with President Barack Obama’s Making Home Affordable anti-foreclosure program.

“Safe harbor is something that you want as a servicer,” said Ajay Rajadhyaksha, the head of fixed-income strategy at Barclays Capital in New York. “Without the safe harbor, you’re far more skittish about doing anything.”

Corker said in a speech on the floor that the measure is a boon to larger servicers including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. An amendment Corker sponsored that would have required borrowers to seek other forms of aid before their loans could be modified failed.

Mortgage bond buyers including Clayton DeGiacinto of Tower Research Capital in New York said allowing the safe harbor provisions removes any accountability servicers have to minimize investor losses and may make the process more susceptible to political pressure and more costly for borrowers.

“It ultimately makes bond investors skeptical and adds an additional layer of risk that will need to be priced into the securities,” said DeGiacinto, who manages a distressed mortgage fund. 

I am all for credible and equitable legislation which promotes decreasing foreclosures. In the process, however, the legislation should be airtight in making sure there is no self-dealing and conflicts of interest. That question regarding this legislation remains outstanding.

While this legislation may help limit foreclosures in the near term, the real cost may be borne in the years ahead in the form of higher mortgage rates. Why might that happen? If banks which service mortgages are influenced and incentivized not to protect the investors’ property rights and thus don’t, the investors will sell their holdings, and take their bat and ball to another field.


Democracy Likely Defeats Moral Hazard

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 20th, 2009 7:06 PM |

As part of Obama’s proposal to support housing, the administration pushed the application of principal reduction via bankruptcy proceedings. This process, known as a mortgage cram-down, was pushed hard by the administration and many Democrats. Virtually all Republicans and mortgage investors viewed the mortgage cram-down as another in a long line of moral hazards.  In short, the mortgage cram-down would violate the implicit and explicit terms of a written contract. 

I wrote What Is a Mortgage Cram Down? on January 1st. While the Obama administration pushed hard for this legislation to be approved, ultimately those with a longer term vision prevailed. What are the concerns about principal reduction? As I wrote:

I personally find it difficult to swallow the concept of government funding for this program. At this juncture, though, the horse is so far out of the barn that we are trying to prevent the illness from becoming a full blown epidemic, if not a plague.

Home prices are down 18% year over year in the top 20 cities in the country and foreclosures have increased by approximately 40%. Both of these figures are certainly headed further in those directions with continued losses for the holders of the underlying mortgages, whether those mortgages are already pooled into securities or held in whole loan form.

The unintended consequences of a principal reduction program will likely be an increase in mortgage rates over the longer term along with a more stringent credit review for those applying for a mortgage. Why will this happen? Very simply, investors in mortgage securities will demand those concessions if they are to purchase mortgages that have the chance of being “crammed down.” Additionally, this program may actually incentivize some borrowers to intentionally become delinquent in their mortgage payments, and actually risk personal bankruptcy in an attempt to be “crammed down.” Where does the madness end?


What Is a Mortgage Cram Down?

Posted by Larry Doyle on January 1st, 2009 11:35 AM |

On December 23rd in my piece, “Everything’s Negotiable…“, I wrote that I thought for those financially challenged and potentially facing personal bankruptcy with resulting mortgage default and foreclosure that principal reduction was definitely on the horizon. I wrote in that piece:

Additionally, the likely first piece of government assistance to come from the Obama administration is capital to help homeowners in foreclosure or approaching foreclosure. I expect that that assistance will incorporate some degree of mortgage principal reduction.

I would definitely broach with your banker the topic of principal reduction after laying out your budget. The worst that the bank can do is say no. If that is their response you will have been on record as having been proactive in the process and that can’t hurt you if in fact you end up actually defaulting.

Given the anemic response to the current loan modification programs along with the high level of re-defaulting, it is readily apparent that the powers that be should have been listening to Sheila Bair’s proposal on principal reduction from the outset. Sheila promoted the concept of government funding sharing in the losses with the banks in the principal reduction process.


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