Federal Housing Probe On Target But Should Examine Loan Modifications, Investigation of Loan Origination Practices That Led To Economic Collapse

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John Taylor, president & CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, issued a statement today in response to the Administration's probe of mortgage servicers. He called on the Administration to include in the probe the abusive lending practices that led to the financial chaos that shattered the economy. He also urged the Administration to move quickly on the question of whether banks are doing what they must do and should do under housing laws to help borrowers because stemming foreclosures is key to ending the economic downturn.

John Taylor, president & CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, issued this statement today in response to the Administration's probe of mortgage servicers:

"It was heartening to hear that the Obama Administration is investigating whether servicers are doing all they can to help homeowners avoid foreclosures, but their probe must include the abusive lending practices that led to the financial chaos that shattered our economy. The Administration should move quickly on the question of whether banks are doing what they must do and should do under housing laws to help borrowers because stemming foreclosures is key to ending the economic downturn. Foreclosures are the bane of our economic recovery, and we fail to see how a temporary national freeze will hurt the economy more than the foreclosures do. Nobody wants to freeze foreclosures on abandoned homes. And a foreclosure freeze gives us all the chance to counsel homeowners, work with lenders and servicers to fix the servicing pipeline, and keep responsible homeowners in their homes.

"Too many of these failing loans relate to the origination of those loans being steeped in fraud, abuse and unsustainable lending. Regulatory and enforcement officials, many now exorcized over the recent inaccuracies in paperwork and documentation, should delve a little deeper into the more devious and widespread malfeasance that created these unsustainable loans. The Administration's new probe must look not only at how banks are assisting homeowners but also how banks made the loans in the first place.

"We have been saying since 2007, these loans should be modified or refinanced in a way that places the homeowner in the type of loan they should have received in the first place. Wall Street, servicers and lenders need to take responsibility for adjusting these loans to a reasonable level based on the borrower's ability to pay. This has been the intent under several foreclosure prevention programs. And it was a normal practice in the financial services sector before the sub-prime lending industry hijacked the mortgage business. This will contribute to homeowners remaining in their homes and reducing, substantially, the number of foreclosures. One issue a federal probe should examine is the extent to which servicers are actually making adequate efforts to make sustainable modifications to loans.

"Only a national freeze on foreclosures would give officials the the ability to do this in a timely manner. A freeze on foreclosures does not mean that abandoned or vacant properties can not be foreclosed on or sold, of course that should happen. But for those homeowners that are still trying to pay their mortgage, but have fallen behind through no fault of their own, another approach is needed.

"A freeze would allow servicers to put their shops in order to prevent fraud and abuse. It's clear that their sloppy practices are pushing many homeowners to foreclosure who could otherwise avoid it. With an addition 11 million foreclosures coming down the pike (according to Amherst Securities), it's imperative that we fix this process. A six-to-eight month freeze would also allow those working with homeowners, banks and servicers, to address the backlog of homeowners needing counseling, mediation or legal services. Without some type of oversight and verification, allowing servicers to make their own determinations about the integrity of their servicing processes is a bad idea, given what we now know. Who's to say that their robo-signing, mass-production process won't continue and will push more people into foreclosure, hurting our economy and the millions of families trying to work their way out of this abyss?

"The government saw the need to rescue the very financial institutions that placed our economy in jeopardy, but has failed to bring the same sense of urgency to help those very families who have been affected by the abusive, fraudulent and unsustainable lending practices by Wall Street and mortgage lenders. This is like telling a malaria victim that they should fend for themselves because they shouldn't have been exposed to those spreading the malaria. America's real moral hazard will be to blame millions of families that trusted the unregulated financial services sector with their life savings and dreams, only to have been taken to the cleaners."

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