Friday, August 28, 2009

Mortgage Modificiations To Get More Difficult?

Countrywide, now part of Bank of America was one of the major lenders to sub-prime borrowers (that only means a credit score below 680 (or 640 depending on the day). It also packaged and sold the loans it originated, as Mortgage-Backed Securities ("MBS"). It continued to service the loans (collect money and send bills from and to borrowers) and was paid by the owners of the MBS to do so. The owners were just investors - they bought $xxxxx of a bond, not any different than if they bought a corporate or municipal bond.

When the mortgage/housing crisis hit, in large part due to Adjustable Rate Mortgages ("ARM") there was tremendous pressure on the Servicers, of which Countrywide was one, to MODIFY loans so that they were affordable for the borrowers. Some servicers modified loans, which they may or may not have been permitted to do in their contract, called a Pooling and Servicing Agreement ("PSA"), with the "packager"/"owner" of the bond. Countrywide modified loans and then, ignoring its PSA, refused to re-purchase the loans that had been modified by lowering the interest rates or even putting payments at the back of the loan. In simpler terms, Countrywide altered the amount of interest the owners of the MBS would receive.

A federal court ruled that Countrywide's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by the investors would not succeed. The Court stated that the case was one which should be brought in State Court, the the modifications were not protected by the recent legislation and Congressional acts to force lenders and servicers to modify loans. Basically, the Court said that if there is a contract, Countrywide must observe it - any quarrels with that belong in a state court on a case by case basis. No "get out of jail card" was given to Countrywide.

WHY DO YOU CARE? Because Servicers, if they aren't protected when they make modification from the investors, who expect a certain percentage return, will refuse to modify citing the Court ruling but relying on the contract they made, and arguing that they cannot breach the contract! This means more difficulty getting Servicers, which are not participating in the Federal program to modify loans, now for fear of a lawsuit.

This issue was brought up months ago and detailed in my posts of 10/25/2008 and 11/9/2008 -
http://finance-for-us.blogspot.com/2008/10/foreclosure-crisis-how-to-stop-it.html and http://finance-for-us.blogspot.com/2008/11/who-is-bailout-helping-right-now.html.

This just points out the disconnect, the lack of communications and an efficient coherent policy to deal with the foreclosures. Maybe Congress would act if it the home of a member!!

Author's Copyright by Richard I. Isacoff, Esq, August 2009
http://www.isacofflaw.com/
rii@isacofflaw.com

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