Thursday, September 23, 2010

Status Cuomo: HUD Tyro & the SubPrime Mortgage Crisis

Andrew Cuomo has been caught lying---red-handed, as it were, as to his voting for Bloomberg, the fatuous fart-machine Mayor of NYC. Turns out Andrew supported the Demonrat Hispanic candidate in '05, the last time he was registered to vote in the Rotten Apple. But Cuomo did the nation great harm in the closing years of the Clinton Administration, when his incompetence and corruption failed to oversee the FanFred binge-and-purge addiction. Here's the Village Voice, hardly a right-wing attack publication, on Andrew's sheer ineptitude:
ndrew Cuomo, the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history, made a series of decisions between 1997 and 2001 that gave birth to the country's current crisis. He took actions that—in combination with many other factors—helped plunge Fannie and Freddie into the subprime markets without putting in place the means to monitor their increasingly risky investments. He turned the Federal Housing Administration mortgage program into a sweetheart lender with sky-high loan ceilings and no money down, and he legalized what a federal judge has branded "kickbacks" to brokers that have fueled the sale of overpriced and unsupportable loans. Three to four million families are now facing foreclosure, and Cuomo is one of the reasons why.

Now, as NY State's Attorney General, this preposterous fraud:
has been trying for months to don a white hat in the subprime scandal, pursuing cases against banks, appraisers, brokers, rating agencies, and multitrillion-dollar, quasi-public Fannie and Freddie.

As the youngest HUD Sec'y, 30-something Cuomo's naked ambitions drove him to go further left and further into risk:
Cuomo's predecessor, Henry Cisneros [took] a cautious approach and moving the GSEs toward a requirement that 42 percent of their mortgages serve low- and moderate-income families. Cuomo raised that number to 50 percent and dramatically hiked GSE mandates to buy mortgages in underserved neighborhoods and for the "very-low-income." Part of the pitch was racial, with Cuomo contending that Fannie and Freddie weren't granting mortgages to minorities at the same rate as the private market. William Apgar, Cuomo's top aide, told The Washington Post: "We believe that there are a lot of loans to black Americans that could be safely purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if these companies were more flexible."

While many saw this demand for increasingly "flexible" loan terms and standards as a positive step for low-income and minority families, others warned that they could have potentially dangerous consequences. Franklin Raines, the Fannie chairman and first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company, warned that Cuomo's rules were moving Fannie into risky territory: "We have not been a major presence in the subprime market," he said, "but you can bet that under these goals, we will be." Fannie's chief financial officer, Timothy Howard, said that "making loans to people with less-than-perfect credit" is "something we should do." Cuomo wasn't shy about embracing subprime mortgages as a possible consequence of his goals. "GSE presence in the subprime market could be of significant benefit to lower-income families, minorities, and families living in underserved areas," his report on the new goals noted.

A susurrus of concern began to rise from the rating agencies, and
Moody's didn't sound an immediate alarm, but its senior analyst, Stanislas Rouyer, said the expansion into subprime loans and the lower level of documentation that came with them could mean that Fannie 's loss levels would increase in the future. Steven Holmes, a reporter from the Times's Washington bureau, wrote at the time: "In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But," he added, "the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s."

Sho' nuf, Lil Andy's hiking of the "goals" had a colossal and immediate effect:
When HUD released the next set of goals in 2004, it reported that after Cuomo's previous edict, there had been a sudden spurt of GSE subprime investment, "partly in response to higher affordable-housing goals set by HUD in 2000." Fannie had gone from $1.2 billion in subprime-mortgage and securities purchases in 2000 to $9.2 billion in 2001 and $15 billion in 2002. Freddie's numbers were murkier, but clearly also on the rise. In 2003 alone, the two bought $81 billion in subprime securities—which also count against the goals.

Fannie also developed a "flexible" product line, providing up to 100 percent financing and requiring borrowers to make as little as a $500 contribution, and bought $13.7 billion of those loans in 2003. In addition to subprime loans and securities, both banks burst into the "alt-a" market, making alternative products easily available to borrowers who had slightly better credit histories than subprime borrowers, but were unwilling to provide full documentation of their financial histories. (It was the "alt-a" investments that recently brought down the private bank IndyMac.) These risky adventures, according to the 2004 HUD report, prompted Freddie to claim that "the increased goals created tension in its business practices between meeting the goals and conducting responsible lending practices," a self-serving attempt to plant the blame back on HUD.

With GWB distracted by foreign adventures and clowns like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd saying there wasn't any real risk, the ballooning sub-primes then skyrocketed:
After this initial uptick, the two banks purchased $434 billion in securities backed by subprime loans between 2004 and 2006.
The Washington Post noted this June that the GSEs' aggressive acquisitions "created a market for more such lending" by others, feeding the fire. No one knows just how big a bite the subprime mess is now taking out of the GSEs, or how much of that portfolio will ultimately go bad, but it has become axiomatic that, whatever the total, it is too much, since it will have seriously shaken confidence in these two linchpin institutions.

That June Post story focused its critical reassessment of HUD's affordable-housing goals on the department's 2004 decision—during the Bush re-election campaign—to juice them up again, pushing the target to 56 percent by 2007. Though the story never mentioned Cuomo—whose three-year, eight-point goal hike exceeded Bush's more gradual six-point increase—it did quote his top aide William Apgar, who helped craft the 2000 policy, saying: "It was a mistake." Apgar, who now teaches at Harvard, conceded, "In hindsight, I would have done it differently."

But wait, there's more from the gifted con-boy Andy, as he put an opaque cloak of non-accountability on his own HUD when producing FanFred rules:
But raising the affordable-housing goals was only half the Cuomo story.

The HUD secretary is also required to produce voluminous rules that govern how the GSEs meet those goals, and the 187-page rules Cuomo issued opened the door to abuse.

The rules explicitly rejected the idea of imposing any new reporting requirements on the GSEs. In other words, HUD wanted Fannie and Freddie to buy risky loans, but the department didn't want to hear just how risky they were......Indeed, in March 2000, HUD had acknowledged that the new goal-driven pressure on the GSEs might "warrant increased monitoring and additional reporting." But when the final rules were adopted in October, that momentary caution had been abandoned: "HUD is not establishing any requirements for additional data to carry out this rule." The report explained that the GSEs "objected" to information mandates "related to their purchases of high-cost mortgages," so HUD decided against imposing "an undue additional burden." HUD would have no way of telling how abusive the low-income mortgages it was mandating might be.

Does it start to sound like Andy is channeling his mobbed-up grandpas who were low-level wise guys and numbers runners, though the Cuomos labored mightily to cover this up and Mario didn't run for POTUS for fear that the media might smoke out his family mob connections. [These were the good ol' days when the quaint custom of investigative journalism by the MSM or "Lamestream Media" was still practiced---Obama is post-IJ and had no such roadblocks such as his birth,campaign contributions, transcripts, connections to crooked realtors and insane preachers and a ghost-writer whose wife was a convicted felon and who himself was proud of killing US officials]

But Cuomo had a different agenda than one might think, and as usual, with Demonrats, always follow the money:
While fashioning these final rules, Cuomo wrestled with the octopus-like reach of Fannie and Freddie, which spend tens of millions each year on lobbying firms. The GSEs hired 88 lobbying firms over six years, three of which were friendly enough with Cuomo to give to his campaign committee later.

Just a look at the New Yorkers tied to the GSEs must have impressed Cuomo, who, after all, would soon return to New York politics. Harold Ickes, the former Clinton chief of staff and a Democratic power broker in this state, was on the Freddie board. Tom Downey, the former New York congressman who would later donate $21,894 to Cuomo, was a Fannie lobbyist. And Al D'Amato, the former banking committee chair who'd shepherded Cuomo's appointment through the Republican Senate, was a Fannie consultant.

But Cuomo was closer to the GSEs' most formidable opponents—namely, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), regarded as the most influential private real-estate finance lobby in Washington, and the upstart FM Watch, a new coalition of heavyweights from Chase to AIG. Both of these groups wanted Cuomo to put as much affordable-housing pressure on the GSEs as he could, and they said so in their releases and newsletters. They opposed what they called Fannie and Freddie's profit-driven "mission creep," which they saw as a publicly subsidized invasion of their high-end mortgage market. Their goal was the same as Cuomo's: to push Fannie and Freddie deeper into low-end mortgages, consistent with the mission statement in their charters
Indeed, the MBA was closer to Andy than anyone suspected, and are still donating to his political career: Remember Chris Dodd's pal Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide CEO who got Chris a "sweetheart" deal along with other friends of Countrywide before it crashed and burned?
Two of Cuomo's aides who had also worked for his father, Howard Glaser and Todd Howe, left HUD to take top jobs at the association in the middle of the GSE rule-making (the MBA parted company with both once Andrew was out of HUD). In 2000, a year after Howe joined the association, he described how he had helped build a grassroots MBA effort to pressure Congress and others into supporting HUD in what he described as the "battle" being "waged against Fannie Mae." Glaser's Harvard alumni biography says he "played a key role in negotiating a multi-billion-dollar increase in GSE affordable-housing goals." He and Howe—who insist they had "no contact" with Cuomo on the MBA's behalf—have given $3,000 to Cuomo in recent years.

The MBA also retained Brad Johnson, another ex–Mario Cuomo aide described as his "eyes and ears" in Washington, to lobby HUD while Andrew was secretary. Three other long-term HUD staffers who worked there under Cuomo—including the lawyer who was the contact person listed on the GSE rules—also ended up at the MBA or one of its lobbying firms. Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide who's become the face of the subprime scandal, was at one point the MBA's president and a member of its executive committee throughout Cuomo's HUD tenure. He and other MBA leaders became Cuomo donors, with Mozilo donating $1,000 twice—in 2002 and 2006.

Hilariously, Cuomo is now an Attorney General who refuses to sue and in the past has sided with criminals rather than those who are suing for adjudication of the so-called "yield-spread premium":
Cuomo's fellow attorney generals in Illinois, California, and Massachusetts have filed lawsuits against Countrywide and other mortgage companies in the current crisis. And those lawsuits are aimed in part at the sucker punch called "yield-spread premium" that was thrown at millions of households who got mortgages from brokers. Brokers have taken over the origination market in recent years by aggressively advertising, and they decide which lenders get the business.

Cuomo hasn't sued anybody over these outrageous payments to brokers—which are based on the "spread" between the high interest rate that brokers persuade unwary borrowers to accept and the par or going rate they would ordinarily have to pay. If Cuomo did sue, it might make for an awkward moment or two in court, since it was Cuomo who issued a rule in 1999 that dozens of federal courts have since found legalized the yield-spread premiums. He was the first HUD secretary to say they were "not illegal per se," nullifying most of the 150 class-action lawsuits against them filed across the country.

There are certainly those who believe that YSPs are at the heart of the crisis. Senator Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee, is trying to ban them, prodded by the fact that up to 90 percent of subprime mortgages quietly triggered these lucrative payments. When the Federal Reserve recently considered barring them and then backed off, a Times editorial charged that it had "balked on banning the practice whereby brokers maximize their commissions by signing up borrowers for the most expensive loan possible, even when the borrower qualifies for a cheaper." The Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, accused Countrywide of structuring their deals with brokers "in a manner that virtually guaranteed" that they were "more concerned with getting the highest YSP possible than getting their borrowers the best loan possible," oblivious to "the possible fraud that this financial incentive would motivate."

The entire article is much longer and the Voice should have got a Pulitzer for this story. It is a tale that should be told as long as the "Status Cuomo" tries to assert its octopus hands around political power at a higher level.

1 comment :

Olivia said...

Such a great article it was which YSPs are at the heart of the crisis. Senator Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee, is trying to ban them, prodded by the fact that up to 90 percent of subprime mortgages quietly triggered these lucrative payments .In which this mortgages were substantially increase.