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Bill Callahan sends around this note…

The Great Bank Bailout was first proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Chairman on September 18, less than 40 days ago. Just think of what’s happened since then. $700 billion in “capital infusions” approved for the financial industry. Wachovia acquired by Wells Fargo. WaMu acquired by JP Morgan Chase. National City acquired by PNC, using $5.5 billion in bailout funds. And talk — endless talk — about whether and how to bail out homeowners facing default and foreclosure.

Now think about what hasn’t changed: Since that day in September, despite all the talk, 1,271 new foreclosure cases have been filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. And 596 more foreclosed Cuyahoga County properties have been sold at Sheriff’s sale.

This must stop. Now. But it won’t, unless we make it stop.

That’s why you need to be at the Justice Center this Thursday at 4 pm to help the Foreclosure Action Coalition tell our elected county judges: Enough is enough. It’s time to Freeze The Foreclosures!

The flyer for the Freeze The Foreclosures rally, with the list of sponsoring groups and other details, is at:
http://foreclosingcleveland.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/freeze_flyer_oct301.jpg

Please click on it, read it, make copies and share them with your friends and neighbors. And then JOIN US on Thursday.

See you Thursday.

Went to vote today and met a bunch of neighbors.

Reality 1: Colin Powell got it right. The woman is not ready.

  • Palin’s ‘going rogue,’ McCain aide says
  • “She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

    Reality 2: McCain mishandled the product.

  • Palin allies report rising campaign tension
  • “She was completely mishandled in the beginning. No one took the time to look at what her personal strengths and weaknesses are and developed a plan that made sense based on who she is as a candidate,” the aide said. “Any concerns she or those close to her have about that are totally valid.”

    But the aide said that Palin’s inexperience led her to her own mistakes:

    “How she was handled allowed her weaknesses to hang out in full display.”

    Meanwhile, Obama’s supporters leverage the Internet with a viral video.

    And a good explanation of Ohio polls.

    Ed Morrison · Links

    October 25th, 2008

  • Ohio lawmakers warn of politics in grant program
  • Euclid Corridor Project Leaves the Station
  • Blundering Mayor Jackson and City Council
  • Chamber kicks off Project 360
  • The Living Cities
    An August 2008 Forbes.com report that named Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown to its list of top-10 “fastest-dying cities” has generated much local discussion. Western Reserve PBS gave community leaders an opportunity to respond in a one-hour live broadcast.
  • George Nemeth · links for 2008-10-25

    October 25th, 2008

    A Citizen’s Guide to the 2007 Financial Report of the United States Government

    While watching the congressional testimony of the federal regulators yesterday, one of the representatives started waving around the Financial Report of the United States and quizzing the witnesses. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox got slapped pretty hard for not being able to answer the representative’s questions.

    It is only a few pages and very easy to understand…

    George Nemeth · links for 2008-10-24

    October 24th, 2008

    Rick Pollack · Loan Origination Basics

    October 23rd, 2008

    I figured it might be helpful to describe the structure of the loan origination process used in my previous post. Understanding 1990s era subprime loan origination offers a baseline for comparison with subprime offerings over the last few years.

    This example was typical of actual lending at The Associates (TA) during the mid to late 90s. TA, the largest publicly traded finance company in the U.S, was acquired by Ford in the late 80s and then spun off again in the mid-90s and was then acquired by Citi in 2000. http://www.citigroup.com/citi/corporate/history/associates.htm

    Account executives, commissioned employees of TA, solicited deals from independent mortgage brokers. The brokers found borrowers (the end consumer) through a number of channels including bulk mail, cold calls, advertising, etc. The broker worked with the borrower to structure a deal – this involved gathering the necessary information to meet the requirements of a particular loan type (financials, debt, etc). The deal was then shopped around to different lenders (TA account executives routinely visited the brokers to keep them up to date on products and rates. The account executives could also do pre-approvals in the broker’s office). If TA was selected; the deal was then submitted to TA for underwriting. The underwriters were located in a small number of centralized, regional offices.

    Brokers are independent operators and they get paid a commission when a deal closes and therefore have a financial interest in the deal closing. Account Executives, as TA employees received both a salary and commission based on deal volume and meeting sales goals, as such they also had a financial interest in deals closing. The underwriters were salaried TA employees who did not get compensation based on deal volume. There was a running battle between sales and underwriting – sales pushed for deals to be approved while underwriting pushed back as they were the gatekeepers and charged with maintaining deal quality. Senior management had to balance the often competing objectives of meeting sales goals while maintaining quality standards.

    These TA loans were considered subprime and non-conforming as the borrowers had credit problems, excessive debt and other credit-worthiness issues. Most of these deals did not meet the GSE (Fannie/Freddie) underwriting requirements. Once the deals closed they were held by TA and serviced in-house. (As far as I know, and this is by no means certain, these deals were not being packaged and sold as mortgage backed securities.)

    Also, it is my understanding, that underwriting was taken seriously. The underwriters were professional, they were aware of fraudulent activity and they actively sniffed-out questionable material. Deals that did not meet underwriting standards were turned down. I don’t know about the soundness of the TA risk models but the interest rates on these subprime loans were several percentage points higher than prime loans – meaning the risk of the loan was expressed through higher interest rates. (I mention this as underwriting standards and interest rate spreads play a significant role in the future meltdown – I will get into this later.)

    I learned most of this from a family member working in operations for TA. From my vantage point, TA was a legitimate company providing a needed service to credit-challenged people in a fraud ridden environment. My understanding of predatory lending and all of the associated ills and issues developed much later. (I will get into more fraud issues later.)

    The following links provide a rather different portrayal of TA:

    From Tearing Down the Walls by Monica Langley:

    After Citi acquired TA – they suspended 3,600 independent brokers of subprime mortgage loans – about 60 percent of the Associates’ contractors-for having inadequate licenses, using questionable tactics, or failing to sign a code of conduct…

    Google Books p. 367-369   http://tinyurl.com/5r7wlh

    Shareholder Resolution Follows Associates First Capital to Citigroup

    http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/440.html

    Citigroup Settles FTC Charges Against the Associates

    Record-Setting $215 Million for Subprime Lending Victims

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/09/associates.shtm

    http://www.innercitypress.org/citiafcc.html

    http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/press/enforcement/2004/20040527/attachment.pdf

    FTC subprime lending cases since 1998

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/07/subprimelendingcases.shtm

    George Nemeth · links for 2008-10-22

    October 22nd, 2008

    There has been a lot of talk about all of the ills of subprime and a fair amount of discussion over what happened and who is to blame. I thought it might be helpful to see what an actual subprime loan looks like and see why it was issued in the first place.

    Joe makes $4,000 per month but he built up serious credit card debt (groceries, electronics, music, travel, medical bills, whatever) and after monthly expenses, he has nothing left. Joe gets a letter in the mail (or a phone call) from XYZ Mortgage, Inc. The letter says – we can help you consolidate your debt. So, Joe decides to meet with the broker and they go over his financials:

    Joe’s gross income: $4,000 (~$50,000 annually)
    Joe’s net income: $3,250

    (I have played it a little loose with the numbers here since I don’t have anything specific to work off but this was fairly typical of a subprime loan in the late 90s. In the 90s though, the interest rate spread between prime and subprime loans was wider, 3% or more (I think) then it was during the bubble. The interest rates used here may be low and may actually paint a somewhat more favorable picture. This example is a 30 year fixed rate loan.)

    Joe’s expenses:

    Fixed:
    $150,000 mortgage      ($1100/mo) (8% fixed, 30 years)
    $10,000 credit card 1   ($250/mo)
    $15,000 credit card 2   ($375/mo)
    car, ins, taxes, etc.        ($700/mo)

    Joe’s total monthly fixed expenses: $2,525.00

    Variable:
    $500 groceries (has kids)
    $300 utilities
    $100 gas
    $100 misc. (many other possible variable items)

    Joe’s total monthly variable costs ~ $1,000

    $2,425 + $1,000 = $3,425 = no breathing room

    The broker informs Joe he can get a new $175,000 mortgage and move the credit card debt into the mortgage to free up some cash. The new deal looks like this:

    The appraiser reports that Joe’s property is worth $200,000 indicating the property has appreciated by $50,000. (This could be legitimate appreciation or the broker may have informed the appraiser in advance that he needed a $200,000 valuation so the deal could close. There is a considerable amount of documentation that this type of appraisal fraud is common. More on this later.)

    New $175,000 mortgage (1300/mo.)

    New monthly fixed expenses:
    $175,000 mortgage ($1300/mo)
    car, ins, taxes, etc.   ($700/mo)

    Monthly total: $2,000

    Old fixed – new fixed = available cash
    $2,425 – 2,000 = $425

    Once Joe has his new subprime loan, he has around $400 of additional cash available per month.

    Does Joe live happily ever after?

    A lot of that depends on Joe. Does he start saving money? Does he get a new credit card offer in the mail and get himself into credit card debt again? One thing that people may have trouble understanding is that once you have gotten yourself into debt, it is very difficult to get out. The burden just increases over time. Getting in debt is a lot like gaining weight. When you are 200 pounds overweight, it is that much harder to get up and exercise.

    In this example, the debt-to-income ratio is 50% ($2,000 debt / $4,000 income). [I think Fannie will go up to 40-45% debt, I need to look that up.]

    So, even under the best circumstances where the borrower is fully documented and the broker acted properly, the situation is tenuous. If you start layering-on the various forms of mortgage fraud (falsified income documents or statements, appraisal overstating property value, predatory lending, concealed debt, etc.) and the situation is entirely unworkable. The borrowers will default even if it is not an ARM.

    If you are going to blame the Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low and creating a credit bubble (which basically means that money was cheap enough for people to act irresponsibly) then I think you need to drag the credit card companies into the equation as well (as this example illustrates). (it is a lot easier to get a credit card than a mortgage.)

    Let’s look at a variation on this loan. Now, suppose that Joe’s house, though it appraised for $200,000 was really only worth $170,000. He’d owned the house for seven years but his neighborhood was not seeing the type appreciation of some of the other, nicer neighborhoods. When the broker placed the order for the appraisal, he also informed the appraiser that he needed a $200,000 valuation (Joe is likely not aware of this). So, the appraiser, not necessarily a bad guy, but dependent on the brokers for income, cherry picks the comps (the property comparisons), the appraisal is good enough to get through underwriting and the deal gets approved. Now, for whatever reason (lost his job, he needs to re-locate, etc) Joe needs to move. This time, when the house is appraised it comes in at $170,000. Joe figures out that if he sells his house he won’t have enough to pay-off the loan, realtor fees and other expenses – he is underwater.

    There are many different types of subprime loans but this is a fairly typical example…