States gain more power over banks

Posted on June 30, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Legislation, Mortgage Fraud, Predatory Lending, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states could enforce some of their consumer protection laws against national banks, a move that could lead to tougher oversight than federal regulators have provided in recent years.

The 5-4 decision in a case involving attempts by New York’s attorney general to enforce fair-lending laws was praised by consumer and civil rights groups, who have accused federal regulators of being lax in policing banks chartered by the federal government.

“This puts more consumer cops on the consumer crime beat,” said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “The federal regulators have demonstrated they’re just having doughnuts in the coffee shop.”

Banking trade groups, however, warned that the ruling could lead to a confusing patchwork of enforcement levels in states that could cause national banks to offer fewer products, such as credit cards.

“This will make it difficult to serve consumers in today’s high-tech, mobile society where people and bank services move constantly across state lines,” said Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers Assn.

The ruling has limited effect because it applies only to a small number of state laws, such as those dealing with discrimination in lending practices, including predatory lending. Most other state laws affecting national banks are enforced by federal officials.

And it only affects the approximately 1,600 national banks, not the larger number of state banks that are subject to the laws of the states in which they’re chartered.

But it is significant because it reverses a trend of states losing legal battles with federal officials over banking regulatory oversight.

The case’s importance also could be amplified by President Obama’s recent proposal to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would allow states to enact and enforce tougher consumer protection laws than the federal government.

via States gain more power over banks – Los Angeles Times.

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Executive Calls ’30s Housing Solutions Superior

Posted on January 15, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , |

A former Fannie Mae executive has deemed Depression-era efforts to modify ailing mortgages more successful than those being used in the current housing crisis. The executive, Edward J. Pinto, who was Fannie’s chief credit officer in the late 1980s, argues in a paper prepared for a research group that current modification efforts by the government and banks are lagging because they typically include past-due payments in new loans and because homeowners are qualifying for new loans that are too big for them to handle. “We’re entering into this housing crisis in a much weaker position than we did during the Depression,” Mr. Pinto said in an interview.

He is scheduled to deliver his paper, on which his remarks were based, to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Friday as part of a conference on the mortgage problems confronting the incoming Obama administration.

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Nearly 1 in 6 Homeowners ‘Under Water’

Posted on October 15, 2008. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Housing | Tags: , |

The relentless slide in home prices has left nearly one in six U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than the home is worth, raising the possibility of a rise in defaults — the very misfortune that touched off the credit crisis last year.

The result of homeowners being “under water” is more pressure on an economy that is already in a downturn. No longer having equity in their homes makes people feel less rich and thus less inclined to shop at the mall.

And having more homeowners under water is likely to mean more eventual foreclosures, because it is hard for borrowers in financial trouble to refinance or sell their homes and pay off their mortgage if their debt exceeds the home’s value. A foreclosed home, in turn, tends to lower the value of other homes in its neighborhood.

About 75.5 million U.S. households own the homes they live in. After a housing slump that has pushed values down 30% in some areas, roughly 12 million households, or 16%, owe more than their homes are worth, according to Moody’s Economy.com.

The comparable figures were roughly 4% under water in 2006 and 6% last year, says the firm’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, who adds that “it is very possible that there will ultimately be more homeowners under water in this period than any time in our history.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122341352084512611.html?mod=googlenews_wsj.

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