Subprime moves into the courtroom

From the Financial Times:

Credit Suisse sues subprime lenders

Credit Suisse has filed lawsuits against at least three US subprime mortgage lenders, marking an escalation of efforts by Wall Street banks to use legal action to purge themselves of bad housing loans.

DLJ Mortgage Capital, a unit of Credit Suisse, is separately suing the three mortgage companies for more than $30m, claiming the lenders failed to honour obligations relating to loans that it purchased from them. EMC Mortgage Corp, a unit of Bear Stearns, has filed at least one $70m lawsuit against a lender. Other suits are expected.

The legal action comes as Wall Street seeks to limit damage from the subprime collapse. Banks including Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers helped fuel the boom in subprime lending, providing billions of dollars to lenders as they bought mortgage loans to sell to yield-hungry investors.

In two of its claims, DLJ Mortgage Capital is seeking to force Sunset Direct Lending and Infinity Home Mortgages to buy back mortgage loans that ran into payment problems soon after DLJ bought the loans.

In one instance, cited in the case against Infinity, DLJ claims it bought four mortgage loans totalling $838,000 made to an individual borrower for three properties on the same street in Irvington, New Jersey. DLJ bought the loans from Infinity between March and April 2006, and claims that the individual failed to make payments on three of the mortgages in May.

Citing contractual agreements that require loan repurchases after such “early payment defaults”, DLJ is seeking almost $24m of buy backs from Sunset and $3m from Infinity. Separately, DLJ is suing NetBank for $4m of payments relating to loans that its subsidiaries were servicing for DLJ.

In an interview, Sunset CEO Bob Howard said he would also dispute DLJ’s claims, but said early payment defaults were a problem. “I can’t believe there is a soul that has been dealing in mortgage sales to Wall Street that hasn’t run into early payment default problems,” Mr Howard said.

He added that Sunset was no longer making new loans. He said employees had been given leave until the end of March, but that he had plans to reopen the firm under a new name in April.

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2 Responses to Subprime moves into the courtroom

  1. HOUSE OF PAIN says:

    Mortgage crisis hits million-dollar homes By Walden Siew
    Thu Mar 29, 12:21 PM ET

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sheriff Leo McGuire presides over foreclosure auctions in Bergen County, New Jersey, where the bidding for a home reached $1.2 million last June — a record for one of the wealthiest counties in the nation.

    Homes sold on the auction block for as much as $852,000 this month — more than quadruple the median home price in the United States. County officials believe they are close to setting another record soon.

    In Troy, Michigan, Dorothy Guzek, a credit counselor since 1988, has also seen the changing face of foreclosure.

    Her clients, while predominantly poor and minorities, increasingly are neither. Nowadays, homeowners holding professional careers with six-figure salaries regularly drop by her office. More and more they come from upscale Michigan communities such as Independence and Clarkston — once the summer retreat for Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co.

    “Because of the financing that was possible, so many people bought the bigger house, the million-dollar house with the bowling alley or the tennis court outside,” says Guzek, who works for GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nonprofit service based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. “People across all income brackets are having financial hardship.”

    For those on the frontlines of the growing U.S. mortgage crisis, these are the early signs that the explosion of subprime loans made to mostly poorer borrowers is reaching higher ground. The damage is hitting homes financed through jumbo loans for more than $400,000 and so-called Alt-A loans that are a notch above subprime and a step below prime.

    Americans already are facing foreclosure at a record pace, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Lenders started foreclosure actions against more than one in every 200 U.S. mortgage borrowers in the last quarter of 2006.

    About 2.2 million foreclosures due to bad mortgage loans may cost U.S. homeowners $164 billion, mostly from lost home equity, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, a Durham, North Carolina-based research group.

    In the last three months, the percentage of foreclosures for U.S. homes valued at more than $750,000 has climbed to 2.5 percent, the highest since early 2005, when RealtyTrac, a online marketplace for foreclosed properties, began tracking data. The overall rate of foreclosures also is on pace to increase by a third this year.

    “Everyone’s looking at subprime. The rock they aren’t looking under are the adjustable rate mortgages and teaser rates and low money-down loans,” said Mark Kiesel, a portfolio manager for Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond manager. “It’s going to affect prime as well.”

    Kiesel said he sold his Newport Beach, California, home for more than $1 million in May last year after the property appreciated more than 20 percent in two years. He believes delinquencies and defaults will rise, weighing down most of the housing market.

    California, with 3,384 foreclosures of higher-scale homes since December, is leading the nation, followed by Florida and New York, according to RealtyTrac. The MBA doesn’t track foreclosure data by home value.


    Josh Rosner, managing director at investment research firm Graham Fisher & Co., says the growing numbers of foreclosures outside the subprime market is just the start.

    “To define the problem as a subprime problem is short-sighted,” Rosner said. “It’s really seeing the tip of the iceberg as the iceberg.”

    Compounding the risk is the nature of homebuyers of higher-end homes, says Rosner. About 40 percent of homes bought last year were second homes or investment properties. Speculative buyers may be more at risk, he said.

    Standard & Poor’s said on a conference call on Thursday that foreclosure rates are likely to surpass levels last seen during the 2001 recession.

    “That giant ATM you’ve been living in has just shut down,” said David Wyss, chief economist at S&P in New York. “Consumers are in debt and we’ve been living beyond our means for some time.”


    The latest foreclosure data also may spell trouble for Wall Street, where pools of bonds may be susceptible to nonperforming

    loans that underpin debt vehicles known as collateralized debt obligations.

    CDOs group debt based on credit quality and are similar to mutual funds in packaging securities to help diversify risk. In CDOs, the strongest debt is at the top of the capital structure, helping to smooth out any drag on performance from weaker debt, such as subprime loans.

    Just as more expensive homes are beginning to fall through the cracks, the fear is higher-rated bonds within CDO structures may be vulnerable.

    The declining performance of subprime loans have resulted in CDOs losing about $20 billion in market value, according to investment bank Lehman Brothers.

    UBS Securities said in a report last month that rising delinquencies may cause losses within some subprime mortgage bonds rated as high as the “A” category.


    At the Justice Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, on Friday, the wood-paneled room is filled with about 40 people and the auction is routine. The first property on the sales sheet lists a Korean homeowner with $509,000 of outstanding debt. There are no bidders. Deutsche Bank, holder of the busted loan, buys the property with a quick $100 bid.

    Sheriff McGuire calls the process “one of the most distasteful parts of my position.” He places most of the blame on bankers who allowed questionable lending practices.

    “This might not have happened if not for these new type of loans,” McGuire said, minutes before the auction. The loans also have helped millions of Americans purchase new homes, he concedes.

    “The banks took a chance on the future, and the homeowners took a chance so there’s enough blame to go around,” McGuire said. Still, “the banks and lenders have largely set them up for this downfall.”

    Adding to the grief, mortgage scams and con artists trying to take advantage of distressed homeowners abound, boosting foreclosure rates, county workers said.

    “It’s not the American Dream anymore,” said Fran Napolitano, a county clerk in Hackensack. “It’s ‘who can I stab next.”‘

    In Detroit’s suburbs, hit hard by the U.S. auto industry downturn and financial troubles at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the story strikes home each day for GreenPath’s Guzek.

    “It’s sad. It’s just an awful feeling,” she said. “You hope that you can come up with a financial plan to help people remain in their homes, but sometimes it’s not the best thing for them.”

    These days, her calendar of eight counseling sessions a day, 40 a week, remains full. Increasingly, she offers different advice than devising financial plans to save her clients’ homes.

    “If they can’t afford it, sometimes the best thing for them is to walk away,” Guzek said.

  2. Bonnie King says:

    After reading the article,I feel that the sheriff has it right. After all loan officers are trained with this idea here is your business cards, see ya later, they are paid stright commission, and most times are trained by the broker, A/E’s from the wholesale representatives on how to doctor the loans to get them approved. The stated income loan or commonly called the Liar Loan is most abused product in mortgage history.As as the Pay Option Arm. Don’t sell the product if you don’t understand how it works and who get hurt. After spending time with the RTC as the Technical Assistant Advisor, I see the same climate for the same type of bail out of the mortgage industry.
    Although, you can blame the Sub Prime industry for this, but not all the blame belongs to them, it belongs to the Brokers, States and conduit lenders that have taught this industry how to run on greed to get the pay check. Anytime that a Broker shows a new Loan Officer how much they can make, the do not explain to them what they must do in order to make it.After awhile the Loan Officer will do whatever they need to do to pay the bills. RESPA to them is a STD. They tell the customer what they want to hear not what they need to know to make a decision on what is best for their family,in most cases the families rely on the Loan Officer to help them make a good solid decision on this type of transaction never knowing that maybe a month ago they sold used cars, and could care less they just want us the family as the way to Show them the money. I interviewed with a wholesale mortage company(since left the business) the person that interviewed me 6 week earlier was a pizza hut delivery driver.

    I have been in this industry for more than 15 years. And have decided that this whole industry needs cleaned out. It lacks the ability to be honest. And when you are honest you get discharged for lack of producton. My intigrity means something to me I would rather work at McDonalds then tell a lie to my customers.
    This is truly an industry of Tramps and Thieves.

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