Real Estate Fraud: Why Don’t We Stop It?

Ed Harrison had a nice post the other day concerning mortgage fraud. He started off his piece this way:

Rampant fraud in the mortgage industry has increased so sharply that the FBI warned Friday of an “epidemic” of financial crimes which, if not curtailed, could become “the next S&L crisis.”

Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker said the booming mortgage market, fueled by low interest rates and soaring home values, has attracted unscrupulous professionals and criminal groups whose fraudulent activities could cause multibillion-dollar losses to financial institutions.

“It has the potential to be an epidemic,” said Swecker, who heads the Criminal Division at FBI headquarters in Washington. “We think we can prevent a problem that could have as much impact as the S&L crisis,” he said.

In the 1980s, many Savings and Loans failed because of poor management, risky loans and investments, and in some cases, fraud. Taxpayers were left with a $132 billion tab to cover federal guarantees to S&L customers.

This is the headline and first four paragraphs of a CNN article from 17 September 2004.

Where are the investigations, perp walks, convictions? So what happened to all that fraud?

It’s still ongoing.

Today, Calculated Risk featured a Jim the Realtor segment in which Jim talks about short sales and frankly opines that fraud and deceit is rampant and frankly embarrassing. Here’s the clip:

So, how many years are we into this mess with nothing in the way of reform to show for it? And, what is the response from Washington? Well, it’s to pass thousands of more pages of regulations that will, trust them, ensure that we never suffer this sort of debacle again.

If there are no consequences for breaking the law and significant financial gains to be had by doing so then a lot of people will do just that. More regulation is pointless if it just sits on a shelf and gathers dust along with the current laws. If you want to make the country a safer place economically, just bring the hammer down on the bad guys.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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