Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Next Financial Crisis Is Already Here! John Lewis 99% Profits CRASH - Retail Sector Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Why Is Apple Giving This Tiny Stock A $900 Million Opportunity? - James Burgess
3.Gold Price Trend Analysis - - Nadeem_Walayatt
4.The Beginning of the End of the Dollar - Richard_Mills
5.Stock Market Trend Forecast Update - - Nadeem_Walayat
6.Hindenburg Omen & Consumer Confidence: More Signs of Stock Market Trouble in 2019 - Troy_Bombardia
7.Precious Metals Sector: It’s 2013 All Over Again - P_Radomski_CFA
8.Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk - Ellen_Brown
9.Gold Stocks Forced Capitulation - Zeal_LLC
10.The Post Bubble Market Contraction Thesis Receives Validation - Plunger
Last 7 days
Stock Market Buy the Dip is Dead - 20th Nov 18
Deep State Mad World - 20th Nov 18
Commodities - What Do You Need To Know? - 20th Nov 18
Precious Metals Moving In Unison For A Massive Price Advance - 20th Nov 18
Handicapping the Precious Metals Through Year-End - 20th Nov 18
Betting Markets Confirm Theresa May Safe From Tory Leadership Challenge this Week - 20th Nov 18
Rail Chaos Transpennine Express Cancels Services to Manchester Airport Whilst on the Train! - 20th Nov 18
The Giants Are Coming...Giants of The Internet! - 20th Nov 18
Gold & Silver Corrective Rally is Almost Over - 19th Nov 18
Stock Market Going Sideways - Which Direction is Next? - 19th Nov 18
Technical Analysis Points to DOW 30k Next Target - 19th Nov 18
Stock Market Consolidating in a Downtrend  - 19th Nov 18
Next Tory Leader, Prime Minister Forecast and Betting Market Odds - 18th Nov 18
The Fed's Misleading Money Supply Measures - 17th Nov 18
Stock Market Outlook: Why the Economy is Bullish for Stocks Going into 2019 - 17th Nov 18
NO DEAL HARD BrExit Tory Chaos, Theresa May Leadership Challenge - 17th Nov 18
Gold vs Several Key Investments - 17th Nov 18
GDX Gold Mining Stocks Q3 18 Fundamentals - 17th Nov 18
Is Gold Under or Overpriced? - 17th Nov 18
Active Managers are Bearish on Stocks. A Bullish Contrarian Sign - 16th Nov 18
Will The Fed Sacrifice Retirement Portfolio Values For The "Common Good"? - 16th Nov 18
BrExit War - Tory Party About to Replace Theresa May for NO DEAL BrExit - 16th Nov 18
Aspire Global Makes Significant Financial Strides - 16th Nov 18
Gold Oil and Commodities …Back to the Future ? - 16th Nov 18
Will Oil Price Crash Lead to “Contagion” for the U.S. Stock Market? - 15th Nov 18
How NOT to Be Among the MANY Stock Investors Fooled by This Market Myth - 15th Nov 18
Tory BrExit Chaos Cripples UK Economy, Wrecks Housing Market Confidence - 15th Nov 18
Stocks Could End 2018 With A Dramatic Rally - 15th Nov 18
What Could Be the Last Nail in This Stock Bull Markets Coffin - 15th Nov 18
Defensive Stock Sectors Outperforming, Just Like During the Dot-com Bubble - 15th Nov 18
Buying Your First Home? Here’s How to Save Money - 15th Nov 18
US Economy Ten Points or Ten Miles to ‘Bridge Out’? - 14th Nov 18
US Stocks: Whither from Here? - 14th Nov 18
Know exactly when to Enter&Exit trades using this... - 14th Nov 18
Understanding the Benefits of Keeping a Trading Journal - 14th Nov 18
S&P 500 Below 2,800 Again, New Downtrend or Just Correction? - 13th Nov 18
Warning: Precious Metals’ Gold and Silver Prices are about to Collapse! - 13th Nov 18
Why the End of the Longest Crude Oil Bull Market Since 2008? - 13th Nov 18
Stock Market Counter-trend Rally Reaches .618 Retracement - 13th Nov 18
How to Create the Best Website Content and Generate Organic Traffic - 13th Nov 18
Why the Stock Market Will Pullback, Rally, and Roll Into a Bear Market - 13th Nov 18
Stock Markets Around the World are Crashing. What Not to Worry About? - 12th Nov 18
Cyclical Commodities Continue to Weaken, Gold Moves in Relation - 12th Nov 18
Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera Stuck or Dead Pixels, Rubbish Video Auto Focus - 12th Nov 18
5 Things That Precede Gold Price Major Bottoms - 12th Nov 18
Big US Stocks Q3 Fundamentals - 12th Nov 18
How "Free Money" Helped Create Sizzling Housing Market & REIT Gains - 12th Nov 18
One Direction More Likely for Bitcoin Price - 12th Nov 18
The Place of HSE Software in Today's Business - 12th Nov 18

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How You Could Make £2,850 Per Month

U.S. Home Foreclosures and Shadow Banking: Why All the "Robo-signing"?

Politics / US Housing Feb 05, 2012 - 12:25 PM GMT

By: Ellen_Brown

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleA foreclosure settlement between five major banks guilty of “robo-signing” and the attorneys general of the 50 states is pending for Monday, February 6th; but it is still not clear if all the AGs will sign.  California was to get over half of the $25 billion in settlement money, and California AG Kamala Harris has withstood pressure to settle. 


 

That is good.  She and the other AGs should not sign until a thorough investigation has been conducted.  The evidence to date suggests that “robo-signing” was not a mere technical default or sloppy business practice but was part and parcel of a much larger fraud, the fraud that brought down the whole economy in 2008.  It is not just distressed homeowners but the entire economy that has paid the price, resulting in massive unemployment and a shrunken tax base, throwing state and local governments into insolvency and forcing austerity measures and cutbacks in government services across the nation.

 

The details of the robo-signing scam were spelled out in my last article, here.  The robo-signing fraud and its implications are expanded on below.

 

Why All the Robo-signing?

 

Over half the homes in the country are now held in the name of an electronic database called MERS—Mortgage Electronic Registration Services.  MERS is a smokescreen behind which mortgages were sold to trusts that sold them to investors.  The mortgages were chopped into pieces and sold as “mortgage-backed securities” (MBS), which traded in a supposedly liquid market.  That meant the investors could sell them in the money market at any time on a day’s notice.  Yale economist Gary Gorton gives this example:

 

Suppose the institutional investor is Fidelity, and Fidelity has $500 million in cash that will be used to buy securities, but not right now. Right now Fidelity wants a safe place to earn interest, but such that the money is available in case the opportunity for buying securities arises. Fidelity goes to Bear Stearns and “deposits” the $500 million overnight for interest. What makes this deposit safe? The safety comes from the collateral that Bear Stearns provides. Bear Stearns holds some assetbacked securities [with] a market value of $500 millions. These bonds are provided to Fidelity as collateral. Fidelity takes physical possession of these bonds. Since the transaction is overnight, Fidelity can get its money back the next morning, or it can agree to “roll” the trade. Fidelity earns, say, 3 percent.

 

That is where the robo-signing came in.  Foreclosure defense attorneys armed with the tools of discovery have discovered that robo-signing -- involving falsified signatures assigning mortgages back to the trusts allegedly owning them -- occurred not just occasionally or randomly but in virtually every case.  Why?  Because the mortgages had to be left free to be bought and sold on a daily basis in the money market by investors.  The investors are not interested in making 30 year loans.  They want something short-term with immediate rights of withdrawal like a deposit account. 

 

The Hazards of Borrowing Short to Lend Long

 

The problem is that when panicked investors all exercise that right at once, there is no cheap funding available to back the 30 year mortgage loans, rendering the banks insolvent.  And that is what happened on September 15, 2008, when Lehman Brothers, a major investment bank like Bear Stearns, went bankrupt. 

 

According to Representative Paul Kanjorski, speaking on C-SPAN in January 2009, the collapse of Lehman Brothers precipitated a $550 billion run on the money market funds.  A report by the Joint Economic Committee pointed to the fact that the $62 billion Reserve Primary Fund had “broken the buck” (fallen below a stable $1 per share) due to its Lehman investments.  The massive bank run that followed was the dire news that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson presented to Congress behind closed doors, prompting Congressional approval of Paulson’s $700 billion bank bailout despite deep misgivings.

 

The sleight of hand that brought the banking system down was that the mortgages backing the money market were supposedly held by trusts that had lent money to homeowners for 15 years or 30 years.  It was the classic “borrowing short to lend long,” a shell game in which banks have engaged for hundreds of years, routinely precipitating bank panics and bank runs when the depositors or the investors all pull their short-term money out at the same time. 

 

The Shadow Banking System Is Still Unregulated

 

Periodic bank panics were averted in the conventional banking system only when the government agreed to insure the deposits of individual depositors in 1933.  But FDIC insurance covered only $100,000 (now $250,000), and large institutional investors had far more than that to invest.  The shadow banking system, in which deposits were “insured” with mortgage-backed securities, developed in response.  But the shadow banking system is unregulated and is just as prone to another collapse today as it was in 2008.  The Dodd-Frank banking “reforms” barely touched it.  As noted in an article titled “Risky Debt Use on Repo Market Hits 2008 Levels” in today’s Financial Times:

 

In the repo market, banks pledge their securities as collateral for short-term loans from money managers and other investors.  The market played a key role in the build-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Banks used toxic assets, such as repackaged subprime loans, to secure trillions of dollars worth of cheap funding. 

 

When the US housing bubble burst, the banks’ trading partners refused to accept such securities as collateral and the repo market rapidly contracted.

 

However, a study by Fitch Ratings says the proportion of bundled debt being used as security in repo transactions has returned to pre-crisis levels. 

 

Using the repackaged loans can increase risk in the repo market, the rating agency says. This is because the securities may be prone to sudden pullbacks such as the one experienced in 2008.

 

We could be looking at another banking collapse at any time; and to fix the problem, we first need to know what is going on.  The AGs should not agree to drop the curtain on the robo-signing scandal until all the evidence is on the table.  It is not just a matter of punishing the guilty; it is a matter of a banking scheme based on fraud, one that ultimately does not work and has jeopardized the homes, savings and investments of the public not just recently but for hundreds of years. 

 

The Way Out

 

There is another way to design a banking system.  The deposits of large institutional investors do not need to be backed by sliced and diced pieces of our homes to be “safe” (something that has proven not to be safe at all).  The large institutional investors seeking safety are largely “us” – the pension funds and mutual funds in which we have stored our savings and on which we rely for support when we can no longer work.  Hundreds of years of history have demonstrated that the only reliable guarantor is the government itself. 

 

Our pension funds and mutual funds need a government guarantee just as much as our individual deposits do.  But we don’t want to be guaranteeing the gambling and derivatives schemes of too-big-to-fail, for-profit Wall Street banks playing fast and loose with our money.  Banking and credit need to be public utilities, operated for the benefit of the public in plain sight of the public.   

 

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back.  Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

 

Ellen Brown is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Ellen Brown

© Copyright Ellen Brown , Global Research, 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.


© 2005-2018 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules