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Posts Tagged ‘Congressional Oversight Panel’

Congressional Oversight Panel Examines Mortgage Irregularities

Posted by Hopeton on November 16, 2010

The following was released by the press office of the Congressional Oversight Panel.

The Congressional Oversight Panel today released its November oversight report, “Examining the Consequences of Mortgage Irregularities for Financial Stability and Foreclosure Mitigation.” The Panel reviewed allegations that companies servicing $6.4 trillion in American mortgages may in some cases have bypassed legally required steps to foreclose on a home. The implications of these irregularities remain unclear, but it is possible that “robo-signing” may have concealed deeper problems in the mortgage market that could potentially threaten financial stability and undermine foreclosure prevention efforts.

In the best-case scenario, concerns about mortgage documentation irregularities may prove overblown. In this view, which has been embraced by the financial industry, a handful of employees failed to follow procedures in signing foreclosure-related affidavits, but the facts underlying the affidavits are demonstrably accurate. Foreclosures could proceed as soon as the invalid affidavits are replaced with properly executed paperwork.

The worst-case scenario is considerably grimmer. In this view, which has been articulated by academics and homeowner advocates, the “robo-signing” of affidavits served to cover up the fact that loan servicers cannot demonstrate the facts required to conduct a lawful foreclosure. The risk stems from the possibility that the rapid growth of mortgage securitization in recent years may have outpaced the ability of the legal and financial system to track mortgage loan ownership. In essence, banks may be unable to prove that they own the mortgage loans they claim to own.

If documentation problems prove to be pervasive and throw into doubt the ownership of pooled mortgages, the consequences could be severe. Borrowers may be unable to determine whether they are sending their monthly payments to the right people. Judges may block any effort to foreclose, even in cases where borrowers have failed to make regular payments. Multiple banks may attempt to foreclose upon the same property. Borrowers who have already suffered foreclosure may seek to regain title to their homes and force any new owners to move out. Would-be buyers and sellers could find themselves in limbo, unable to know with any certainty whether they can safely buy or sell a home.

Further wide-scale disruptions in the housing market, if they arose, could cause significant harm to financial institutions. For example, if a Wall Street bank were to discover that, due to shoddily executed paperwork, it still owns millions of defaulted mortgages that it thought it sold off years ago, it could face billions of dollars in unexpected losses. To put in perspective the potential problem, the mortgage-backed securities market totals approximately $7.6 trillion, so irregularities that affect even a small percentage of this market could have dramatic effects on bank balance sheets – potentially posing risks to the very financial stability that the Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed to protect. The Panel urges Treasury and bank regulators to undertake new “stress tests” to gauge the ability of major financial institutions to cope with a potential documentation-related crisis.

Documentation irregularities could also disrupt Treasury’s foreclosure prevention efforts. Some servicers dealing with Treasury may not be able to document a legal right to initiate foreclosures, which may call into question their ability to grant modifications or to demand payments from homeowners. The servicers’ use of “robo-signing” may also have affected determinations about individual loans; servicers may have been more willing to foreclose if they were not bearing the full costs of a properly executed foreclosure. The Panel recommends that Treasury immediately undertake more active efforts to monitor the impact of documentation irregularities on its foreclosure mitigation programs.

Documentation irregularities could compound other threats to the mortgage market. In particular, allegations have surfaced that banks may have misrepresented the quality of many loans sold for securitization. Banks found to have provided misrepresentations could be required to repurchase any affected mortgages. Because millions of these mortgages are in default or foreclosure, the result could be extensive capital losses if such repurchase risk is not adequately reserved.

The Panel emphasizes that mortgage lenders and securitization servicers should not undertake to foreclose on any homeowner unless they are able to do so in full compliance with applicable laws and their contractual agreements with the homeowner.

The full report is available at www.cop.senate.gov.

Posted in Mortgages | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Congressional Oversight Panel Evaluates Progress of TARP Foreclosure Mitigation Programs

Posted by Hopeton on April 20, 2010

The Congressional Oversight Panel released its  oversight report, “Evaluating Progress of TARP Foreclosure Mitigation Programs,” on April 14.  The Panel commended recent changes to the mortgage modification program designed to reach more homeowners, but found that Treasury is still struggling to get its foreclosure programs off the ground even as the crisis continues unabated.

Elizabeth Warren, Chair, Congressional Oversight Panel

Since the Panel’s last examination of foreclosure mitigation efforts in October 2009, Treasury has taken steps to address concerns that the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) did not adequately address foreclosures caused by unemployment or negative equity, including by establishing a voluntary principal reduction program. Despite these and other efforts, foreclosures continue at a rapid pace. In 2009, 2.8 million homeowners received a foreclosure notice, and nearly one in four homeowners with a mortgage currently has negative equity. While housing prices have begun to stabilize in many regions, home values in several metropolitan areas continue to fall sharply.

The Panel found that “Treasury’s response continues to lag well behind the pace of the crisis” and that, even when HAMP is fully operational, they “will not reach the overwhelming majority of homeowners in trouble.” The report raises three specific concerns with Treasury’s foreclosure programs:

Timeliness. Since early 2009, Treasury has initiated half a dozen foreclosure mitigation programs, gradually ramping up the incentives for participation by borrowers, lenders, and servicers. Although Treasury should be commended for trying new approaches, its pattern of providing ever more generous incentives might backfire, as lenders and servicers might opt to delay modifications in hopes of eventually receiving a better deal.

Sustainability. Although HAMP modifications reduce a homeowner’s mortgage payments, many borrowers continue to experience severe financial strain. HAMP typically does not reduce the total principal balance of a mortgage, meaning that a borrower who was underwater before receiving a HAMP modification will likely remain underwater afterward. Many borrowers will eventually redefault and face foreclosure. Redefaults signal the worst form of failure of the HAMP program: billions of taxpayer dollars will have been spent to delay rather than prevent foreclosures.

Accountability. The Panel is concerned that the sum total of announced funding for Treasury’s individual foreclosure programs exceeds the total amount set aside for foreclosure prevention. Treasury must be clearer about how much taxpayer money it intends to spend. Additionally, it must thoroughly monitor the activities of participating lenders and servicers, audit them, and enforce program rules with strong penalties for failure to follow the requirements.

The full report is available at cop.senate.gov.

The Congressional Oversight Panel was created to oversee the expenditure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds authorized by Congress in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) and to provide recommendations on regulatory reform. The Panel members are: former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul S. Atkins; J. Mark McWatters; Richard H. Neiman, Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York; Damon Silvers, Policy Director and Special Counsel for the AFL-CIO; and Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Posted in Housing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congressional Oversight Panel Report Says Commercial Real Estate Losses Pose Major Risk to Financial Stability

Posted by Hopeton on February 11, 2010

The Congressional Oversight Panel today released its February oversight report, “Commercial Real Estate Losses and the Risk to Financial Stability.” The Panel is deeply concerned that a wave of commercial real estate loan losses over the next four years could jeopardize the stability of many banks, particularly community banks, and prolong an already painful recession.

Commercial real estate (CRE) loans made over the last decade—including retail properties, office space, industrial facilities, hotels and apartments—totaling $1.4 trillion will require refinancing in 2011 through 2014. Nearly half are at present “underwater,” meaning the borrower owes more on the loan than the underlying property is worth. While these problems have no single cause, the loans most likely to fail are those made at the height of the real estate bubble. As the Panel notes, however, “Even borrowers who own profitable properties may be unable to refinance their loans as they face tightened underwriting standards, increased demands for additional investment by borrowers, and restricted credit.”

Community banks, rather than the largest Wall Street banks, face the greatest risk of insolvency due to mounting commercial real estate loan losses. According to federal guidelines, 2,988 banks nationwide are classified as having a “CRE Concentration.” None of these banks are among the 19 largest bank holding companies.  Forecasts project that banks will suffer their worst losses well after the timeframe examined by the stress tests—an exercise conducted only on the nation’s 19 largest bank holding companies—and well after Treasury’s authority expires under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

The Panel found that “a significant wave of commercial mortgage defaults would trigger economic damage that could touch the lives of nearly every American.” When commercial properties fail, it creates a downward spiral of economic contraction: job losses; deteriorating store fronts, office buildings and apartments; and the failure of the banks serving those communities. Because community banks play a critical role in financing the small businesses that could help the American economy create new jobs, their widespread failure could disrupt local communities, undermine the economic recovery and extend an already painful recession.

The full report is available at cop.senate.gov.

The Congressional Oversight Panel was created to oversee the expenditure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds authorized by Congress in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) and to provide recommendations on regulatory reform. The Panel members are: former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul S. Atkins; J. Mark McWatters; Richard H. Neiman, Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York; Damon Silvers, Policy Director and Special Counsel for the AFL-CIO; and Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Posted in Banking, Economy, Small Business Loans | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Congressional Oversight Panel Releases Report on TARP Use for Auto Industry

Posted by Hopeton on September 9, 2009

The following was issued by the press office of the Congressional Oversight Panel.  The Congressional Oversight Panel was created to oversee the expenditure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds authorized by Congress in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) and to provide recommendations on regulatory reform. 

The Congressional Oversight Panel today released its September oversight report, “The Use of TARP Funds in Support and Reorganization of the Domestic Automotive Industry.” In protecting the interests of taxpayers, the Panel found Treasury negotiated aggressively with all the players in the automotive industry. While Treasury has conceded that it is unlikely to recover the entire amount invested, other goals also influenced Treasury’s overall strategy. 

Even before last year’s financial crisis, the American automotive industry was facing severe strains. In 2008, U.S. automotive sales fell to a 26-year low. By the end of the year, a long-term slump became an acute crisis, with Chrysler and General Motors (GM) unable to secure credit and facing reduced consumer demand. Without new financing, they faced collapse – a potentially crippling blow to the American economy that could eliminate nearly 1.1 million jobs. Facing this prospect, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was used to provide American automotive companies with short-term financing and additional loans to finance the bankruptcy reorganizations of Chrysler and GM.

Elizabeth Warren, Chair, Congressional Oversight Panel

Elizabeth Warren, Chair, Congressional Oversight Panel

American taxpayers now own 10 percent and 61 percent of the new Chrysler and GM companies respectively. Treasury’s support for the automotive industry differed significantly from its assistance to the banking industry. The bulk of the funds were available only after the companies had filed for bankruptcy, wiping out their old shareholders, cutting their labor costs, reducing their debt obligations and replacing some top management. The government’s role raises serious oversight issues, particularly Treasury’s conflict between competing objectives.

The Panel recommends that, to mitigate the potential conflicts and political issues inherent in owning Chrysler and GM shares, Treasury should take exceptional care to explain its decision making and provide a full, transparent picture of its actions. The Panel also recommends that Treasury consider placing its GM and Chrysler shares in an independent trust that would be insulated from political pressure and government interference.

Given the questions about whether Treasury had the authority to use of TARP funds to aid the ailing domestic automotive industry, Treasury should provide a legal analysis justifying this decision. The Panel found that further questions about the propriety of the bankruptcy proceedings – accusations of illegal behavior and allegations that statutory bankruptcy priorities were overturned – are overblown and inaccurate. The full report can be found at cop.senate.gov.

The Congressional Oversight Panel members are: former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul S. Atkins, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Richard H. Neiman, Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York, Damon Silvers, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO and Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. 

Posted in Business, Credit | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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