The bailing out of our largest financial institutions was a violation of moral hazard of the greatest magnitude. With that violation well in place, America is now facing violations of other moral hazards. What do I mean?
The mortgage modification program is a joke because the banks holding the mortgages have no incentive in modifying them. Why? Because, to a very large extent, if the bank modifies the primary mortgage then it has to write off the value of a second lien, if in fact a second lien exists. Given the amount of equity borrowers took out of their homes, there are a lot of second liens outstanding.
How are the banks handling these second liens? Violating a moral hazard and committing fraud in the process. A report from CNBC, Big Banks Accused of Short Sale Fraud, highlights this reality. The report outlines:
In order for a short sale with two loans to happen, the second lien holder has to drop the lien.
If they don’t, and there’s no short sale, the home goes to foreclosure and the first lien holder gets the house because second liens are subordinated debt to the primary loan.
In short, the second lien holder gets nothing. In order to get the second lien holder to drop the lien, the first lien holder generally negotiates some partial payment to the second lien holder. The second lien holder doesn’t have to agree, but more and more are doing so.
That’s all legal.
But here’s what’s not legal and what’s apparently happening quite often recently. Since many second lien holders are getting very little, they are now allegedly requesting money on the side from either real estate agents or the buyers in the short sale. When I say “on the side,” I mean in cash, off the HUD settlement statements, so the first lien holder doesn’t see it.
“They are pretty clear and pretty upfront about the fact that if the first lender knows they are getting paid, the first lender will kill the short sale,” says Brandt. “So these second lenders are asking for the payments off the closing documents, off the HUD statement, usually in a cashiers check prior to closing. Once they receive that payment, they will allow the short sale to go through, which according to RESPA laws and the lawyers that we have spoken to on the topic is not legal.”
Why is this fraudulent activity happening? First, let’s accept the fact that our banking system is an oligopoly. An oligopoly allows for and promotes conspiratorial practices. Secondly, and even more important, the banking system has Uncle Sam by the balls and is squeezing them whenever and however it wants.
That is the economic reality of United states crony capitalism circa 2010.