Another Deal Coming for the Bankers, Unlikely to Benefit Consumers

Dauphine Island       New reports have finally trickled out on a “last and final” deal between government regulators and the nation’s big banks over their irresponsible, immoral fleecing of consumers around home mortgages leaving millions as foreclosure victims.  Nothing about this settlement sounds really good for consumers particularly.  The whole thing smacks of end of the year, desk cleaning for government bureaucrats and bank lawyers looking to end the year with a big payday.

Take for example these snippets that have emerged on the deal so far:

  • Negotiations were top secret with word only coming out recently.
  • Cost of the paperwork trying to establish how banks fleeced consumers is mired in huge time sucking cost overruns (about 20 hours per loan file), and the estimated multi-year delays from these dilatory and expensive bank reviews could drag out for years.
  • Regulators proposed a $15 billion settlement on all outstanding matters, which would be cheap at 5 times that price, and the terms are already down to a potential $10 billion dollar deal.

You want to know more?  Are you sure?

All 14 of the major banks are reportedly ready to sign.  Let me tell you something for certain.  The only thing all 14 major banks would ever be ready to all sign is the list for a free lunch!    This all has the feeling of a velvet pillowcase being pulled over all of our heads so that the banks can get back to business without this in the background.  Was it only a week or two ago that we read the report that the banks are ticking off the Federal Reserve officials because they are profiteering on interest rates and refusing to move them down to the level allowed by the cheap money policy of the Reserve?  This settlement can be paid out of the margins of what they are fleecing on new loans right now!

What’s the money for?  According the Times report without them saying so, it’s “same ‘ol, same ‘ol.”  Almost $4 billion would be used as a pittance for people who have already lost their homes because of all of this chicanery.  The other $6 billion would be used to pad the balance sheets of the banks in the same way as past settlements:

Under the terms of the settlement being negotiated, $6 billion would come from banks to be used for relief for homeowners, including reducing their principal, helping them refinance and donating abandoned homes, the people said.

All of those things the banks should be doing on their own, and simply uses the money pitched in by the 14 banks to spread out losses on their balance sheets, transfers the money back to them in fact, and claiming “all the way to the bank” that they are helping their victims.

Hard to see any justice in this, but the point from the government and bankers seems to be to at least put us all out of the misery of continuing to read about it or foolishly hope that there will ever be any real relief or justice at the end of this fiasco.

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FACE to Face is Reducing Foreclosures in Hawaii

FACE community meeting

New Orleans   Given how little of any significance has been done on any governmental or financial level to stem the tide of foreclosures in the USA, I read with interest a blurb in an on-line Shelterforce alert about progress in Hawaii.  It seems the Gameliel affiliate, FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity), directed by our old friend and colleague, Drew Astolfi, had put the pieces together in the state legislature and the results are indicating that they have made a huge difference.

Looking at the fact that Hawaii had risen to 9th highest among foreclosure states, Astolfi and his team, initiated a statewide survey and recognized the mainland trend that much of the foreclosure activity was being driven by the big banks (Citi, Wells, etc) and their servicers in fact were responsible for more than 97% from their numbers.  They came to the common sense conclusion that the local banks that had to meet directly with the mortgage victims were delaying foreclosures while the big banks, often lacking loan offices in the island, were simply pulling the trigger.   One thing led to another, as these campaigns develop, and working with allies in the state legislature, FACE was instrumental in getting a bill passed that offered some relief.

The bill passed in March 2011, almost 18 months ago, required some simple steps that turned out to make a difference and a huge one at that:

The new law, called Act 48, gave owner-occupants of residential property in non-judicial foreclosure the ability to meet face-to-face with their lenders to modify their loans or work out a payment plan within three months. Banks were barred from carrying out non-judicial foreclosures without the face-to-face sit-down, and any previous foreclosure proceedings were frozen during the three-month process.

Foreclosures in Hawaii dropped by more than half from May 2011 to January 2012. “Personal bankruptcy rates plummeted, and the Council of State Governments recommended that every other state adopt a similar law,” says Rep. Herkes.

As encouraging as this is, it is depressing to find – 18 months later – that other state governments and even the federal government did not jump on this idea and implement it.

The insight of the campaign and the legislation is the power of “community” even in banking, when finance is forced to confront families.  When communities have the same voice and can be heard as clearly as Wall Street, then as Hawaii has now proven, foreclosures can actually be modified and reduced.

FACE to face has worked in Hawaii, so why not force face-to-face in finance in the mainland?

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