Monday, February 02, 2009

Bail-out blues

We have all read about the billions that our government keeps showering on failing banks, mortgage bankers, and GSE's (such as Fannie Mae).

The official explanation is that they "are too big to fail".

And, meanwhile, it's business as usual. Government "discovering" from time to time that CEO's and high-level executives are still pocketing bonuses and buying Lear Jets, while their troubled bank use the bailout money to buy out other more troubled financial companies and banks.

My opinion is that Federal Government should just let them fail, and take over their assets and liabilities, establish a Federal Trust fund, in the manner of the 1980's famous Resolution Trust, to market the thousands (or may be millions) of these properties, mortgages and securities.

It is a big tangle, for sure, and the F
eds might not be completely up to the task. But it is surely a better solution than bailing out the predators while they continue to feast on the corpse of a broken economy, eventually giving them the power to recover and come back to haunt us with another bubble of a new kind and invention.

A Federal Trust would try to put some order in the massive amount of borrowers' failures, organize and streamline some restructuring of these loans, decide on eventual foreclosures, short sales, and perhaps even the renting of troubled properties to their present bankrupt owners, avoiding unnecessary foreclosures and evictions.

A few months ago, I wrote about an obnoxious case of aborted short sale. I couldn't understand the outcome, and I thought of stupidity, or fraud. I have read an article today that might clarify this case. It might not be fraud or stupidity. It might just be another case of greed.

Let me tell the story one more time:

I had sent an offer to a listing real estate broker, regarding a property that was offered at $ 239,000. My offer was $ 199,000. The broker indicated that the lending bank had previously refused much larger offers. The last one refused was $ 239,000. But that was months ago, and he thought that, in view of the continuous market deterioration, the bank would probably accept it. I so informed my customer and here started the long wait. After a few months of periodically contacting the listing broker who didn't manage to get a response from the Bank, one day something happened. I called the broker and he was very upset. He told me that the bank has canceled his listing, foreclosed on the property, put it up for sale with another broker, and sold it in a couple of days for $ 155,000, a lot less that what my client had offered. The broker was on the brink of crying in desperation and swore not to get involved in any more short sales.

You can imagine my indignation. That's how I started suspecting fraud or plain stupidity.
I even thought of writing to newspapers and agencies. I informed my Realtor association and they told me to write to my congressmen, which I did. There was, of course, no further news, and it was another buried case.

I am reading now in an article from The Bradenton Herald, on February 2nd, 2009, an article, written by a Florida West Coast attorney, that had enlightened me, or at least provoked some thoughts. Here it is:

Why the lender may not OK your short sale

By Cynthia Ridell

At Riddell Law Group, we focus on real estate matters primarily. Thus most of my time is spent negotiating workouts, shorts sales and defending foreclosures. In the course of my practice we have had many success stories. Many short sale transactions are being approved and closed these days in Sarasota and Manatee counties. In fact NAR (the National Association of Realtors) stated that “Pending home sales activity surged as buyers took advantage of low home prices and affordable interest rates.”

Much of these sales are short sales. But what about the short sale offers presented to lenders that do not get approved. Many of these offers are substantially more than what the lender may see a year from now when they receive a property back in foreclosure.

Thus when a short sale approval does not occur, the question posed by many borrowers, real estate agents and the like is: “Are the lenders just crazy?”

Well, it may not be the soundest fiscal response when a lender rejects a short sale offer at first glance. Or it may just be that the offer is an insufficient offer. But what about the offers that are substantial and can be corroborated through comparables? One must look further for the answer to this question; one must look to the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) that a particular loan is part of.

As many of us know, most mortgages were sold on the secondary market the “day after” closing and pooled with a group of mortgages held in trust as collateral for the issuance of a mortgage-backed security. Some mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are known as “pools” themselves. These are the simplest form of mortgage-backed security. These assets were pooled together so that Wall Street could package them as Mortgage Backed Securities. Each of the pools of mortgages are governed by this pooling and servicing agreement.

Most of the agreements have provisions for when an asset goes into default. The servicier, must elect to identify the asset as non performing and place it into the foreclosure process. Once this is done the servicer is now entitled to receive two times its servicing fees. It also opens up a multimillion dollar escrow fund that the servicer can reach to for payment of foreclosure attorney fees upfront. This may very well be the reason that borrowers that attempt a workout via short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure never get anywhere but foreclosure.

Another reason that the short sale process for approval stagnates is because of competing interests and private mortgage insurance at the investor level. Many of the securities sold have different terms for different beneficial interests or Tranche as they are known. Some are high risk with possible great returns and others are low risk conservative returns.

Investopedia defines a certain type of Tranche by writing: “A special type of bond class in a sequential pay collateralized mortgage obligation. This class of bond does not receive any interest or principal payments until all other Tranches have been completely paid off. In a Z-tranche, the interest that is not paid is accrued and added to the principal for future interest calculation purposes.”

Moreover, many of the more senior beneficial interests, or Tranches, may have mortgage insurance to look to for payment in the event of foreclosure. Thus for them a workout seems a moot point if they can look to insurance to make them whole. Whereas the lesser beneficial interests may not be able to look to insurance but rather a pro rata share of the proceeds from a sale. Thus within the pool there is conflict among the beneficial interests as to how to proceed: workout or foreclosure?

Cynthia A. Riddell, an attorney whose practice primarily focuses on real estate foreclosure, short sale and bankruptcy issues. is a member of the Florida bar and admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She practices in Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Lee counties.

This clarifies somehow my confusion and perplexity. There might be an explanation for my aborted short sale, other than fraud or stupidity. It's all too familar:


It also make me start to believe that the way it's being done, this mess will be absolutely impossible to untangle. Can you imagine the thousands of package loans sold to foreign or American investors, hedge funds, and banks, serviced by multiple affiliated or non affiliated businesses, swapped, fractured and resold ad nauseam? Can anything but a centralized organization try to unravel and disentangle this disaster? And can we qualify the late and present actions of the creators of this catastrophe, other than plain, good-old, cold-blooded GREED?

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Real Estate Professional. Please visit my website: to search for

Florida Condos, Hallandale Condos, Aventura Condos, Hollywood Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

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