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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pearlstein on Foreclosure-Gate

by Calculated Risk on 10/10/2010 09:08:00 AM

From Steve Pearlstein at the WaPo: To sort this mess, both banks and borrowers must do the right thing

Listening to the fiery rhetoric about the mortgage mess emanating from politicians this week, you'd think that big bad banks were trying to foreclose on hundreds of thousands of homeowners who were current on their payments but had become victims of sloppy business practices.
But if, as appears to be the case, the overwhelming majority of homeowners facing foreclosure have fallen far behind on their payments, then it is a good deal harder to summon up the same moral outrage over reports that the banks and loan service companies cut corners, failed to keep the right documents and engaged in shoddy and even fraudulent practices. Just because the banks and servicers have screwed up doesn't mean they and their investors are no longer entitled to get their money back.

Certainly banks and servicers should, at their own expense, be sent back to do things right. Those who engaged in fraud should be punished. And if there are legitimate questions about who owns a loan, those will need to be resolved before the proceeds of any foreclosure are distributed.

But none of that changes the basic reality that there are millions of Americans who took out mortgages they could not support on houses they could not afford.
I've pointed this out several times: the basic facts are 1) the homeowners have a mortgage and 2) the homeowner is seriously delinquent.

As Tom Lawler wrote "mortgage servicers who messed up should bear all of the costs associated with their mess up". And I'd prefer alternatives to foreclosure (mortgage modification or even short sales / deed-in-lieu), but we also need to remember that the basic facts are not in dispute.