Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Reading

For those of you who could not care less about the Superbowl today, two great articles worth your time.

First, more evidence of the unbridled criminal activity rampant in the mortgage and lending industries prior to and following the Great Crash of 2008:

YEARS before the housing bust — before all those home loans turned sour and millions of Americans faced foreclosure — a wealthy businessman in Florida set out to blow the whistle on the mortgage game.

His name is Nye Lavalle, and he first came to attention not in finance but in sports and advertising. He turned heads in marketing circles by correctly predicting that Nascar and figure skating would draw huge followings in the 1990s.

But after losing a family home to foreclosure, under what he thought were fishy circumstances, Mr. Lavalle, founder of a consulting firm called the Sports Marketing Group, began a new life as a mortgage sleuth. In 2003, when home prices were flying high, he compiled a dossier of improprieties on one of the giants of the business, Fannie Mae.

Not only was he warning of a great crash to come, but he had evidence of the crimes being committed by Fannie and other Big Mortgage lenders.

What Fannie Mae knew about abusive foreclosure practices, and when it knew it, are crucial questions as Congress and the Obama administration weigh the future of the company and its cousin, Freddie Mac. These giants eventually blew themselves apart and, so far, they have cost taxpayers $150 billion. But before that, their size and reach — not only through their own businesses, but also through the vast amount of work they farm out to law firms and loan servicers — meant that Fannie and Freddie shaped the standards for the entire mortgage industry.

Almost all of the abuses that Mr. Lavalle began identifying in 2003 have since come to widespread attention. The revelations have roiled the mortgage industry and left Fannie, Freddie and big banks with potentially enormous legal liabilities. More worrying is that the kinds of problems that Mr. Lavalle flagged so long ago, and that Fannie apparently ignored, have evicted people from their homes through improper or fraudulent foreclosures.

Mr. Lavalle said, “Fannie Mae, its directors, servicers and lawyers appeared to have an institutional policy of turning a willful blind eye to evidence of mortgage origination and servicing fraud. From my own personal experience and 20 years of research and investigation, nothing — and I mean nothing — that a bank, lender, loan servicer or their lawyer says or puts on paper can be trusted and accepted as true,” Mr. Lavalle said.

A second article in today's Times deals with the voiceless families of those who happen to be related to killers in society.

In a society where headlines of violence are almost commonplace, the families of the perpetrators are often unknown and largely unheard from. But now some relatives have decided to share their stories. In interviews with members of numerous families of varying social and economic status, siblings, parents, partners, cousins and children of convicted killers recounted the hardships they have experienced in the years since their relatives’ crimes.
Compelling reading. Happy Sunday.

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