Posted on October 2, 2011 by Neil Garfield
“Banks should not be servicers and they should not be pretending, much less allowed to make decisions on modifications of loans that were irresponsible, dead-beat proposals before any borrower signed for them.” Neil F Garfield,www.livinglies.wordpress.com
EDITOR’S COMMENT: The good news is that the Occupy Wall Street Movement hit the front page and the editorial section with this op-ed piece from Nicholas Kristof. The bad news is that the act of demanding the truth has become a “revolutionary” act. How did that happen? — in the “land of the free” where the very first amendment allows freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which I guess has come to mean the freedom to sell out to big business and big banks.Kristof is wrong when he says these protesters have no list of demands. Their list is a short list of getting the truth and forcing their government to hold the “banksters” accountable for performing acts that would land any common person in prison. Kristof misses the simplicity of the message. And he misses the simplicity of the solutions that are easily available to our financial system, our society and our standing around the world. If we start from the truth about what happened and account for the money, then we can start the process of reversing what has appeared to be irreversible damage.It’s not like we have a choice. Either we let the banks have their way and leave them alone to continue the rape and pillage of countries around the world or we don’t. And we need to act while we still have the power to do so. If the banks get their way (and mind you I am only talking about a handful of powerful bankers, since the others were kept out of the “game” or even victimized by it), then we have the virtual certainty of a floundering housing market going further into the abyss dragging the economy, jobs and prospects for any recovery with it. And yes it IS that simple.The alternative is simple: since we know that the investors had their purse stolen, and the homeowners were used as pawns in a vast game of economic brinkmanship where the “loans” were secretly paid off or settled, let’s get the banks out of the game. Banks should not be servicers and they should not be pretending, much less allowed to make decisions on modifications of loans that were irresponsible, dead-beat proposals before any borrower signed for them.The opportunities must be created for people of good faith to enter into discussions to settle the matter — the real stakeholders (investors and homeowners). For those who blithely predict that no homeowner will enter into discussions for modifications if they think they can get a free house, my message is “DO THE MATH.” Millions of people have sought modification or settlement of issues with the servicers and banks whereas only 2-3% of those foreclosed upon have litigated. People would rather settle than fight — they have already proved that.And for those people who do not act in good faith there can be consequences. But even if collateral benefit arises from addressing this issue with integrity and honesty about how this mess was created, from a practical standpoint, which is better — letting the bankers keep their ill-gotten gains or letting a few people make a little extra money that will be pumped back into the economy as soon as it is received?Nobody is saying the investors should bear the complete loss or that the homeowners should bear the complete loss — but that is what is happening under the Alice in Wonderland system we now witness: BOTH investors and homeowners have been burdened with the total loss. To make matters worse BOTH insurers AND taxpayers have been burdened with the total loss. So the total loss has been paid four times, so far and it is climbing. Now title insurers and probably rating agencies are going to bear some loss too. Who is collecting all this money? The mega banks and their puppet servicers and puppet trustees (known as SHAM TRUSTEES) are becoming the largest landowners in history and they are the largest holders of cash in the world.In my world, if you steal a purse, you get caught, return what is recoverable and pay a penalty — loss of freedom. In the world of Wall Street finance, they get to keep the purse, use the ID to make other money, get paid by taxpayers for the loss of the purse, and they get to buy homes with worthless “debt” paper that doesn’t belong to them, which they found in the purse. Some people think this is OK. What is most interesting is the divergent views on this subject have converged geographically on “Wall Street.”If holding a purse snatcher accountable is a revolutionary act, then count me in.
October 1, 2011
The Bankers and the Revolutionaries
AFTER flying around the world this year to cover street protests from Cairo to Morocco, reporting on the latest “uprising” was easier: I took the subway.
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has taken over a park in Manhattan’s financial district and turned it into a revolutionary camp. Hundreds of young people chant slogans against “banksters” or corporate tycoons. Occasionally, a few even pull off their clothes, which always draws news cameras.
“Occupy Wall Street” was initially treated as a joke, but after a couple of weeks it’s gaining traction. The crowds are still tiny by protest standards — mostly in the hundreds, swelling during periodic marches — but similar occupations are bubbling up in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington. David Paterson, the former New York governor, dropped by, and labor unions are lending increasing support.
I tweeted that the protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo, and that raised eyebrows. True, no bullets are whizzing around, and the movement won’t unseat any dictators. But there is the same cohort of alienated young people, and the same savvy use of Twitter and other social media to recruit more participants. Most of all, there’s a similar tide of youthful frustration with a political and economic system that protesters regard as broken, corrupt, unresponsive and unaccountable.
“This was absolutely inspired by Tahrir Square, by the Arab Spring movement,” said Tyler Combelic, 27, a Web designer from Brooklyn who is a spokesman for the occupiers. “Enough is enough!”
The protesters are dazzling in their Internet skills, and impressive in their organization. The square is divided into a reception area, a media zone, a medical clinic, a library and a cafeteria. The protesters’ Web site includes links allowing supporters anywhere in the world to go online and order pizzas (vegan preferred) from a local pizzeria that delivers them to the square.
In a tribute to the ingenuity of capitalism, the pizzeria quickly added a new item to its menu: the “OccuPie special.”
Where the movement falters is in its demands: It doesn’t really have any. The participants pursue causes that are sometimes quixotic — like the protester who calls for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because of his brutality to American Indians. So let me try to help.
I don’t share the antimarket sentiments of many of the protesters. Banks are invaluable institutions that, when functioning properly, move capital to its best use and raise living standards. But it’s also true that soaring leverage not only nurtured soaring bank profits in good years, but also soaring risks for the public in bad years.
In effect, the banks socialized risk and privatized profits. Securitizing mortgages, for example, made many bankers wealthy while ultimately leaving governments indebted and citizens homeless.
We’ve seen that inadequately regulated, too-big-to-fail banks can undermine the public interest rather than serve it — and in the last few years, banks got away with murder. It’s infuriating to see bankers who were rescued by taxpayers now moan about regulations intended to prevent the next bail-out. And it’s important that protesters spotlight rising inequality: does it feel right to anyone that the top 1 percent of Americans now possess a greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent?
So for those who want to channel their amorphous frustration into practical demands, here are several specific suggestions:
¶Impose a financial transactions tax. This would be a modest tax on financial trades, modeled on the suggestions of James Tobin, an American economist who won a Nobel Prize. The aim is in part to dampen speculative trading that creates dangerous volatility. Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax, but the Obama administration is resisting — a reflection of its deference to Wall Street.
¶Close the “carried interest” and “founders’ stock” loopholes, which may be the most unconscionable tax breaks in America. They allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.
¶Protect big banks from themselves. This means moving ahead with Basel III capital requirements and adopting the Volcker Rule to limit banks’ ability to engage in risky and speculative investments. Another sensible proposal, embraced by President Obama and a number of international experts, is the bank tax. This could be based on an institution’s size and leverage, so that bankers could pay for their cleanups — the finance equivalent of a pollution tax.
Much of the sloganeering at “Occupy Wall Street” is pretty silly — but so is the self-righteous sloganeering of Wall Street itself. And if a ragtag band of youthful protesters can help bring a dose of accountability and equity to our financial system, more power to them.
Filed under: bubble, CDO, CORRUPTION, currency, Eviction, foreclosure, GTC | Honor, Investor,Mortgage, securities fraud Tagged: | Bankers, bankruptcy, borrower, countrywide, disclosure,foreclosure, foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, foreclosures, fraud, Kristof, LOAN MODIFICATION, modification, quiet title, rescission, RESPA, revolutionaries, securitization, TILA audit, trustee, WEISBAND