Bank of America’s $16 Billion Mortgage Settlement Less Painful Than It Looks | New York Times – Dealbook

From the article:

The Justice Department said on Thursday that it had so far recovered nearly $37 billion from big banks for their role in selling shoddy mortgages before the financial crisis.

Such a large number — intended to deter misdeeds in the future — suggests that Wall Street is being made to pay for its role in stoking the subprime debacle. Yet the financial pain inflicted by the settlements may not be as great in the end.

“Walking away” not immoral, prof says

Sign Of The Times - Foreclosure
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“Strategic default” is the term used to describe the decision to walk away from an underwater mortgage. The terms of a mortgage contract spell out the responsibilities of all parties, and include a list of consequences for borrowers who fail to live up to their part of the bargain. Some homeowners, after looking at the terms of the contract, are concluding that they are willing to live with those consequences. But are there moral and ethical implications to this? Read the article here. You can download the discussion paper referred to in the article here.

Marketplace Money had an interesting piece, with Henry Blodget, CEO of the “Business Insider,” and Megan McArdle, of the “Atlantic” magazine debating the propriety of walking away. You can hear that piece and read the transcript here.

Excerpt from the Arizona Republic article:
Arizona law professor Brent White says the only thing standing between many “underwater” homeowners and a better financial future is a misguided sense that walking away from a loan commitment is morally wrong.

White, an associate professor at University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, has spent the past few months presenting his argument to other lawyers, real-estate professionals and the national media.

It started with a 50-page discussion paper he published in October, in which White argues that underwater homeowners, those whose unpaid loan balance exceeds the value of their home, are being manipulated into picking up the tab for a real-estate crash that borrowers and lenders created equally.

“I’m all for a society where people must take personal responsibility, but that should also apply to the banks and financial institutions,” he said.

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Feminomics: Women Reformers Motivated by a No Tolerance Rule

A great article from a very interesting website. Read the article here.
Excerpt:

During the past year, the financial sector has done a lot of wrong. First, it nearly self-destructed. Then it engaged with a set of Washington elites to extract trillions of dollars of public funds to ease its pain. Now, it’s posting record bonuses on the back of that assistance, in a disgustingly entitled manner, as if its profits are based on sheer skill, rather than federal aid, accounting tricks, and regulatory indifference. What’s missing from this reckless scenario? Women.

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Ohio AG sues credit agencies for public pensions

Read the article here.

Excerpt:
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The three major credit ratings agencies gave mortgage-backed securities unjustifiably high ratings in return for lucrative fees, losing at least $457 million for five Ohio public employee pension and retirement funds, the state’s attorney general alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday.

Ohio is the second state whose public pension funds have pursued credit rating agencies, after the California Public Employees’ Retirement System sued the agencies in July alleging they caused it more than $1 billion in losses.

Ohio Attorney General Rich Cordray said Friday evidence showed that Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor’s knew that mortgage-backed securities — in which mortgages were sliced and packaged into securities for investors — were much riskier than the top ratings they gave them.

But because those seeking the specific rating could shop around until they received that rating, rating agencies had a significant financial incentive to give the highest rating so they wouldn’t lose market share, Cordray said.

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Wall St. Finds Profits by Reducing Mortgages

So, is this ethical? Read the article here.
Excerpt:

Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.

But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.

While homeowners save money, the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.

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