Tuesday, 27 May 2008 01:00

Bank Burn

From the WSJ :

Already burned by bad mortgages on their books, lenders now are feeling rising heat from loans they sold to investors.

Unhappy buyers of subprime mortgages, home-equity loans and other real-estate loans are trying to force banks and mortgage companies to repurchase a growing pile of troubled loans. The pressure is the result of provisions in many loan sales that require lenders to take back loans that default unusually fast or contained mistakes or fraud.

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The potential liability from the growing number of disputed loans could reach billions of dollars, says Paul J. Miller Jr., an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Some major lenders are setting aside large reserves to cover potential repurchases.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest mortgage lender in the U.S., said in a securities filing this month that its estimated liability for such claims climbed to $935 million as of March 31 from $365 million a year earlier. Countrywide also took a first-quarter charge of $133 million for claims that already have been paid.

The fight over mortgages that lenders thought they had largely offloaded is another reminder of the deterioration of lending standards that helped contribute to the worst housing bust in decades.

Such disputes began to emerge publicly in 2006 as large numbers of subprime mortgages began going bad shortly after origination. In recent months, these skirmishes have expanded to include home-equity loans and mortgages made to borrowers with relatively good credit, as well as subprime loans that went bad after borrowers made several payments.

Many recent loan disputes involve allegations of bogus appraisals, inflated borrower incomes and other misrepresentations made at the time the loans were originated. Some of the disputes are spilling into the courtroom, and the potential liability is likely to hang over lenders for years...

... Repurchase claims often are resolved by negotiation or through arbitration, but a growing number of disputes are ending up in court. Since the start of 2007, roughly 20 such lawsuits involving repurchase requests of $4 million or more have been filed in federal courts, according to Navigant Consulting, a management and litigation consulting firm. The figures don't include claims filed in state courts and smaller disputes involving a single loan or a handful of mortgages.

In a lawsuit filed in December in Superior Court in Los Angeles, units of PMI Group Inc. alleged that WMC Mortgage Corp. breached the "representations and warranties" it made for a pool of subprime loans that were insured by PMI in 2007. Within eight months, the delinquency rate for the pool of loans had climbed to 30%, according to the suit. The suit also alleges that detailed scrutiny of 120 loans that PMI asked WMC to repurchase found evidence of "fraud, errors [and] misrepresentations."

PMI wants WMC, which was General Electric Co.'s subprime-mortgage unit, to buy back the loans or pay damages. Both companies declined to comment on the pending suit.

Lenders may feel pressure to boost reserves for such claims because of the fear they could be sued for not properly accounting for potential repurchases, says Laurence Platt, an attorney in Washington. At least three lawsuits have been filed by investors who allege that New Century Financial Corp. and other mortgage lenders understated their repurchase reserves, according to Navigant.

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 01:00

1 comment

  • Comment Link Michael Roberts Wednesday, 28 May 2008 01:32 posted by Michael Roberts

    This is part of the reason why GE is going to hurt. They should be a great success story now with their overseas sales.
    Their huge debt forays are going to be painful.

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