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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bankers Never Learn As Long As You Are Willing To Pay

The ever wonderful Gretchen Morgenson's column in today's New York Times explains clearly how banker's are happy to relive the past disaster as long as you are willing to pay for it.  Here is a taste.

But the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul last year barred lenders from making home loans before determining that people could probably repay them.
(It’s depressing that we have to legislate common sense, but, hey, that’s the world we live in.)
Dodd-Frank also required regulators to define the characteristics of loans that would most likely be repaid. The idea was to ensure that banks had skin in the game when they bundled risky mortgages into securities.
The proposal was this: If a mortgage security contains only high-quality loans, the banks can sell the entire offering. If the investments included riskier mortgages, the underwriters must keep 5 percent of the issue on their own books.
Basically, Wall Street would have to eat a bit of its own cooking.
Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the comptroller of the currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development all agreed on what makes a mortgage most likely to perform well. They examined how different types of loans defaulted, and the attributes of the borrowers in question. Then they invited the public to comment on their proposal; that comment period ends tomorrow.
One attribute of safer loans, the regulators found, was that homeowners had made a down payment of at least 20 percent. Another was that their housing debt did not exceed 28 percent of their monthly income, and that their total debts did not exceed 36 percent.
In other words, regulators said, a relatively low-risk mortgage should look an awful lot like the ones that local banks made before the days of securitization on steroids. Regulators also said that the origination costs on low-risk mortgages should no more than 3 percent of the amount borrowed.
THE mortgage industry squawked. It would prefer that we return to the days of high-fee, anything-goes lending. That is not surprising. But what is surprising is that mortgage bankers are leaning on the same tired argument — that saner lending requirements will undermine the goal of expanding homeownership.

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