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Friday, December 2, 2016

How To Prevent A Housing Recovery: Accept A 46-State Mortgage Fraud Settlement

The settlement will do nothing to help fix the bruised housing market and may in fact have damaging consequences.

There are two fundamental values that are essential to any working capitalist economy: accountability and the rule of law. The reported outlines of the proposed settlement of the robo-mortgage scandal (no official details have been released) by 46 state attorneys general working together shows how far we have diverged from the basic principles of egalitarian capitalism.

This proposed settlement has no place in a capitalist economy. First, a successful housing recovery is essential to the ultimate recovery of the economy. So the implications of any settlement that potentially hurts the housing market are extraordinarily significant for the health of the nation. Second, it is based on principles that are unrecognizable in a nation built on capitalism and hence accountability and the rule of law.

Bank officials have testified in investigations of the robo-mortgage scandal that they submitted up to 10,000 false affidavits per month. Such testimony is effectively an admission of criminal guilt. These people admitted that, on behalf of their firms, they broke numerous criminal laws, most likely including conspiracy, fraud, and misleading the court.

The banks have attempted to deflect their misdeeds by suggesting that these illegal acts did not harm anyone. The laws were related to process only. The answer to such claims is that they are irrelevant. The banks are acknowledging that they perpetrated victimless crimes on a massive scale. And, each year, I suspect thousands of American citizens go to jail for perpetrating victimless crimes on a far lesser scale.

Moreover, these illegal acts demonstrate disrespect for the mortgage process. This same disrespect for appropriate processes, although not proven to be similarly criminal, is a large part of how our current mortgage mess was created in the first place. The banks ignored many basic underwriting rules in a rush to profit from extending as many mortgages as possible.

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