Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC has a nice graph, The Mortgage Market Overview, that helps to make sense of the massive U.S. residential mortgage market. It breaks down the $20 trillion dollar U.S. residential housing market into debt and equity and then further breaks down debt into the various available types, by market share: GSE; portfolio; private-label MBS; etc. A picture can be worth twenty trillion words . . ..
Law360 quoting me in BofA Fight Won’t Blunt DOJ’s Favorite Bank Fraud Weapon (behind a paywall). It reads in part,
A federal magistrate judge on Thursday put a Justice Department case against Bank of America Corp. using a fraud statute from the 1980s in peril, but the case’s limited scope means the government is not likely to abandon its favorite financial fraud fighting tool, attorneys say.
Federal prosecutors have increasingly leaned on the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, a relic of the 1980s savings and loan crisis, as a vehicle for taking on banks and other financial institutions over alleged violations perpetrated during the housing bubble years.
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Some banking analysts hailed the ruling as potentially the beginning of the end of the government’s pursuit of housing bubble-era violations.
“If the judge’s recommendation is accepted by the federal district court judge, then this development will represent a significant setback for the government’s legal efforts and likely mark the beginning of the end for crisis-era litigation,” Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading LLC, said in a client note.
However, others say the government’s case was brought under relatively narrow claims that Bank of America did not properly value the securities to induce regulated banks to purchase securities they otherwise might not have.
That is a tougher case to bring than the broad wire fraud and mail fraud claims that were available to the government under FIRREA. The government has employed those tools with great success against Bank of America and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC in other cases in far-flung jurisdictions, said Peter Vinella, a director at Berkeley Research Group.
“There was no issue about whether BofA did anything wrong or not. It’s just that the case was filed incorrectly. It was very narrowly defined,” he said.
It is not entirely clear that Bank of America is in the clear in this case, either.
U.S. district judges tend to give great deference to reports from magistrate judges, according to David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
But even if U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. accepts the recommendation, the Justice Department has already lodged a notice of appeal related to the report. And in the worst-case scenario, the government could amend its complaint.
A victory for Bank of America in the North Carolina case is unlikely to have a widespread impact, given the claims that are at stake. The government will still be able to bring its broader, and more powerful claims, under a law with a 10-year statute of limitations.
“It is one opinion that is going against a number of FIRREA precedents that have been decided in others parts of the country,” Reiss said. “It also appears that this case was brought and decided on much narrower grounds than those other cases, so I don’t think that it will halt the government’s use of the law.”
Law360.com quoted me in Capital Rules To Spread Beyond Banks Under Housing Bill (behind a paywall). The story reads in part,
Mortgage servicers, aggregators and other actors in the U.S. housing finance market would for the first time be subject to the same capital requirements that apply to banks under a new bipartisan bill aimed at replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, potentially eliminating an advantage nonbank firms currently enjoy.
The elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is the centerpiece of S. 1217, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014, introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Wyo. The government-sponsored entities would be replaced by a proposed Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp. that would backstop the housing finance market in a manner similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s backing of the banking system.
Among the details in the 442-page bill released Sunday are provisions that would allow the FMIC to impose capital standards and other “safety and soundness” rules to mortgage servicers, firms that package mortgages into securities and guarantors that provide the private capital backing to mortgage-backed securities. Compliance with these standards would be required for access to a government guarantee.
Previously those types of institutions have not been subject to safety and soundness rules, unless they were part of a bank. If the Johnson-Crapo bill moves forward as currently written, those firms could be in for a big change, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
“Historically, nonbanks have had a lot less regulation than banks. So, by giving them a safety and soundness regulator you are taking away a regulatory advantage – that is, less regulation – that they have had as financial institutions,” he said.
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“What it effectively does is create safety and soundness standards for guarantors, aggregators and servicers, as if they were banks. There’s been this long debate about what you do about the nondepository institutions, and this would empower FMIC to supervise private-party participants like banks,” said Laurence Platt, a partner with K&L Gates LLP.
Specifically, the potential rules would apply to aggregators, which serve to collect mortgages and pack them into securities, and guarantors, or firms that provide the private capital to back those securities. Mortgage servicers that process payments and provide other services to mortgages inside those securities would also be included under the FMIC’s regulatory umbrella, according to the bill.
The FMIC would also have the power to force the largest guarantors and aggregators to maintain higher capital standards than their smaller competitors as a way to mitigate the risk of any such market player becoming too big to fail, and will be able to limit such firms’ market share if they get too big, according to the bill.
Underwriting standards for mortgages that would be backed by the FMIC would match, as much as possible, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s qualified mortgage standards, which went into effect in January, according to the legislation.
Moreover, the FMIC would be able to write regulations for force-placed insurance that is applied to mortgages where borrowers do not purchase their own private mortgage insurance under the legislation. The CFPB and other regulators have tackled perceived problems in the force-placed insurance market in recent months.
Extending those capital and other safety and soundness requirements to nonbank firms would be akin to extending supervision authority of nonbank mortgage servicers and other firms to the CFPB, a power granted by the Dodd-Frank Act, Reiss said.
“It can be described as part of the effort since the passage of Dodd-Frank to regulate the breadth of the financial services industry instead of one part of it, the banking sector,” he said.