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Banana Republic Chronicles: Mozilo Gets a Slap on the Wrist

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted October 19, 2010

Whoever said crime doesn’t pay must never have met Angelo Mozilo…

A wolf in wolves’ clothing, Mozilo reportedly made $500 million at the peak of the bubble presiding over one of the dirtiest mortgage operations of all time — otherwise known as Countrywide Financial.

And while you might expect somebody like Mozilo to go to court for his crimes, your faith in the current system would be hopelessly naïve.

That’s because there are two sets of rules in this country: One for people of power and influence, and another for everybody else.

Like it or not, that’s the America we live in today. It’s the powerful versus the powerless — just as it is in any banana republic.

Mozilo’s slap on the wrist

So instead of seeing justice done in one of the most anticipated trials of the year, a deal was cut a mere four days before Mozilo was scheduled to show up in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Admitting no guilt, the former CEO and his lieutenants walked with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for their role in fleecing homeowners and shareholders alike.

From his gigantic ill-gotten fortune, Mozilo walked for a measly $22.5 million, leaving Bank of America on the hook for the remaining $45 million — along with the legal fees.

Nice deal, huh?

It gets even sweeter…

During one eight-year period, Mozilo received $521.5 million in compensation from Countrywide as he and his cronies ran it into the ground in the biggest, most destructive bubble in U.S. history.

Now, two years later, he walks for the equivalent of chump change. Not bad for a guy that used to sweep floors and make sausage…

They get the parachutes, and the rest of us get wiped out in the aftermath.

Meanwhile, the bad loans that Mr. Mozilo and so many others cashed in on have given birth to yet another challenge to the rule of law: foreclosure fraud.

It’s another case in which laws were tossed aside out of greed and convenience. What with forged documents, phony affidavits, and defective titles, this is the Gordian knot that will knock housing down another peg.

I can tell you from experience that closing title on a loan is a process that carries with it a very specific set of legal steps that must be followed to the letter of the law. There can be no exceptions.

The reason for this is pretty simple: to protect the property rights of all involved parties.

That’s why signed documents have to be witnessed and notarized; this proves that you are who you say you are, and that you own what you say you own.

What’s more, these “wet ink” signatures need to be completed on the date of the transaction — not signed and backdated after the fact — or even worse, forged, stamped, and created months later in a rush to push more foreclosures through the pipeline.

This is the essence of the problem, since ignoring and/or breaking the law in this case clouds the transaction corrupting the chain of title.

This could effectively call into question as many as half of all housing transactions — making these homes basically unmarketable until each individual title is cleared. That includes not just foreclosed homes; but performing mortgages as well.

And here’s the bigger problem: Some analysts believe these title issues go all the way back to 1998.

Understand that, and you can begin to understand the enormity of the problem… As well as why three major banks have halted foreclosures, and the Attorney Generals in 49 states have launched investigations of their own.

This should effectively freeze up the market for foreclosure sales over the next 6 to 12 months, and then some.

Needless to say, that’s a big problem for the housing market. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 24% of all home sales in the second quarter involved foreclosures.

So if you are wondering whether housing will recover or relapse next year, the smart money is betting on the next leg down. In the absence of foreclosures, the sales numbers are going to be simply awful.

Foreclosure gate and the big banks

It also casts a giant shadow over the entire mortgage-backed securities business, since the loans that were “sliced and diced” in the process are the ones with the faulty and potentially invalid paperwork.

After all, you can’t sell a note that is backed up by collateral that you don’t have a proper lien on…

It leaves the investor with unsecured paper, failing the representations and warranties clause that can nullify the deal.

As a result, investors may now be able to argue that a “true sale” was never actually completed, allowing them to push untold billions of dollars in losses back on the big banks.

It turns into something like a good ol’ fashioned game of Old Maid; the last person holding the queen of spades will be on the hook for huge losses.

As Adam noted yesterday, it’s not a good time to be buying the big banks.

This mess won’t be “contained” unless the government steps in and gives these crooked banksters a retroactive mulligan — leaving everyone else wondering why they bothered to play by the rules in the first place.

The cynic in me says that it will be delivered right after the election.

So don’t worry about Angelo and his banker pals… The last time anyone saw them, they were laughing their heads off in backseats of chauffeured limousines.

By the way, according to Wikipedia, a banana republic is one that typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a “backward” economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency…

That about sums it up now, doesn’t it?

It’s why investors need to seriously consider buying commodities — gold, silver, and palladium — to protect their wealth against the Fed, the government, and their banker friends.

George Carlin said it best when he pointed out, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

Your bargain-hunting analyst,

 steve sig

Steve Christ
Editor, Wealth Daily