Government Was Just Trying to “Foam the Runway” to Help Giant Banks
We pointed out last year:
Huffington Post notes, in a story entitled “New Obama Foreclosure Plan Helps Banks At Taxpayers’ Expense “:
A key new condition in the plan would shift the financial liability for refinanced loans from Wall Street banks to the American taxpayer.
The newly expanded program would expunge legal liabilities associated with mortgages refinanced through the program for the original lenders of the mortgages. Each time a bank sent a loan to Fannie and Freddie, it certified that the loan met Fannie and Freddie’s safe lending criteria. But many loans sent to the mortgage giants did not, in fact, meet those criteria. Currently, when borrowers default on those ineligible loans, the mortgage giants can “put back” the resulting losses onto the banks that pushed the loans.
Under the modified plan, “put back” liability at banks will be erased for any underwater mortgage that is refinanced through HARP, eliminating Fannie and Freddie’s ability to sack lenders with losses in the event that the mortgage does not pan out.
If borrowers go through HARP, but decide after several months that the modest monthly savings do not outweigh owing tens of thousands of dollars more than their home is worth, taxpayer-owned Fannie and Freddie will have to take the full loss. Even if the original loan was sent to Fannie and Freddie with false or fraudulent guarantees from the bank — promises that may directly be tied to the borrower’s current financial problems — banks will be immune from liability. Fannie and Freddie plan to charge banks “a modest fee” to extinguish this liability, but the administration has yet to determine what that fee will be.
“In most cases people would probably be better off walking,” said economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
While this is outrageous, it’s nothing new. PhD economists John Hussman and Dean Baker, fund manager and financial writer Barry Ritholtz and New York Times’ writer Gretchen Morgenson say that the only reason the government keeps giving billions to Fannie and Freddie is that it is really a huge, ongoing, back-door bailout of the big banks.
We noted in February:
We reported in April that the current overseer of the Tarp bailout program – the special inspector general for TARP, Christy L. Romero – said that the Tarp funds haven’t been paid to homeowners, but have gone to banks:
A fund to support homeowners in the communities hit hardest by the collapse of the housing bubble has disbursed just 3 percent of its budget and aided only 30,640 homeowners in the two years since its creation, according to a report released on Thursday by a federal watchdog office.The Hardest Hit Fund, which was created in the spring of 2010, grants money to state housing finance agencies for efforts to help families that are facing foreclosure. It has “experienced significant delay” because of “a lack of comprehensive planning” by the Treasury Department and limited participation by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the large mortgage servicers, said the report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“Look at the TARP money that goes out to the banks,” said [Romero] “That goes out in a matter of days. This has been two years and only 3 percent of these funds have trickled out to homeowners.”
And last month, the former Tarp overseer – Neil Barofsky – noted last month:
The truth is that the administration – whether through principal reduction or otherwise – has never prioritized coming up with an effective approach to helping homeowners and reviving the housing market, even when it had a multi-hundred-billion-dollar TARP war chest at its disposal.
More dramatically, in his must-read book Bailout, Barofsky says the Obama Administration never cared if the HAMP mortgage modification program actually saved homeowners from foreclosure, and that Treasury Secretary Geithner said that the program was simply aimed at spreading out foreclosures over time to “foam the runway” for the giant banks so that a high number of simultaneous foreclosures would not jeopardize their balance sheets. See this 45-second video clip:
(others have corroborated Treasury’s focus.)
Remember that the entire Tarp bailout was initially sold as a solution to the housing meltdown, but was switched – before it was even approved – to a bailout for Wall Street.
This is in addition to all of the government’s other stealth bailouts to the big banks.
By choosing the big banks over the little guy, the government is dooming both.