Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A story and some reality

Consider this story:
It is a sunny day and the streets are strangely empty. A man walks along a road and suddenly chances upon a pot of gold shimmering in the distance. He breaks into a run and manages to grab onto the pot and is slowly beginning to explore the contents inside when the ground opens up beneath him and he finds himself free falling down a deep dark hole. He seems to pass out in between and is shaken back into consciousness when a strange unbearable stench in the hole assails his nostrils. He looks around and finds himself neck deep in a cesspool of shit. The pot of gold seems to have disappeared in the muck around him and he presently begins to scream for help. A while later he sees some men in suits come by, peer cautiously into the hole and mutter excitedly to one another. The man in the hole seems to catch the words 'Hey, here is another one' and is overjoyed that someone actually stopped to help. Very soon they extend what looks like two separate lifelines to him and now it obviously looks like they are going to haul him out of there. His joy soon runs aground when he realizes that one of the lines held by the suits is being used for fishing in the cesspool to retrieve the pot of gold while the other is not a lifeline - it seems to be some kind of a battering ram that appears to be pushing against his head forcing his head into dirty brown waters swirling around him. The stench mixed with helplessness is pretty much unbearable and is what he ultimately remembers. Half an hour later the men in suits seem to have drowned the man, collected the pot of gold, declared victory and with a whoop of joy head down to the nearest bar for a celebratory round of drinks...

Consider this reality:
We all know about homeowners being disadvantaged and fooled into a false sense of security in owning their homes and paying their mortgages due to the dubious marketing that the mortgage companies had conjured. I talked about this multiple times before. We also know that as soon as the individual is not able to pay, the home automatically goes into foreclosure. A very trying process that sometimes snares the individual during the foreclosure process is the declaration of bankruptcy.

I read a report in the New York Times yesterday that talked about the companies who instigate foreclosure proceedings while simultaneously taking advantage of the distressed individual (who has not only lost their homes but also declared bankruptcy). In other words, a new business model seems to be emerging – “profiting from foreclosures”. A study conducted by Dr. Katherine Porter of the University of Iowa records the following:

"In one example, Ms. Porter found that a lender had filed a claim stating that the borrower owed more than $1 million. But after the loan history was scrutinized, the balance turned out to be $60,000. And a judge in Louisiana is considering an award for sanctions against Wells Fargo in a case in which the bank assessed improper fees and charges that added more than $24,000 to a borrower’s loan".

"Late fees accounted for 11.5 percent of servicing revenues in 2006 at Ocwen Financial, a big servicing company. At Countrywide, $285 million came from late fees last year, up 20 percent from 2005. Late fees accounted for 7.5 percent of Countrywide’s servicing revenue last year".

Predatory financing is one, but capitalistic cannibalism seems to rule the roost.

"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed—for lack of a better word—is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed—you mark my words—will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA". – Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street

Misbehavior and Mistake in Bankruptcy Mortgage Claims - Dr. Kathleen Porter. (you could download the paper here)

The growing threat to middle class families - Elizabeth Warren

Dr. Katherine Porter’s blog:

David Smith, ‘False Peace Spectre’, bronze and steel painted blue, 1945, 12” X 27” X 10”


ajit said...

Thousands are strugling....

ajit said...

Thousands are strugling....

Tree said...

Good piece, Sunil.
Can I add your blog to my blogroll?

Sunil said...

Glad you liked the writeup.
Please go ahead and add the link.