Everyone’s talking about NYU Professor Neil Barofksy’s new book, ‘Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street to Save Wall Street.’
That’s because, besides giving us a taste of Tim Geithner’s potty mouth, it’s full of intense details about how the financial bailout sausage was made. So obviously the book’s a little ugly, a little depressing… and available for your consumption tomorrow.
Until then, make due with this Bloomberg column by Barofsky in which he spells out why the government is still failing to control banks, their size, and how they’re negatively impacting our economy. The first and most major reason he cites is simple — The Treasury gave up on American homeownership.
The Home Affordable Modification Program was supposed to help Americans struggling with their mortgages get above water again, but it’s moving an incredibly slow pace. As of March 31st, 2012 the number of homeowners helped had only reached around 800,000.
A promise to withhold funds from banks that weren’t helping homeowners (made in June 2011) was short lived. Wells Fargo improved, said Barofsky, but JP Morgan and Bank of America continued to underperform. Either way, everyone got their funds less than a year later as a stipulation of the $25 billion robo-signing settlement against banks.
And about that settlement — Barofsky sees it as a win for the banks too. Just break down the numbers:
- Of the entire settlement, only $1.5 billion of it will go immediately into the pockets of homeowners ($2,000 each).
- The rest won’t actually be paid out in cash, $7 billion will be in the form of ‘credits’ that banks earn for things like donating homes to charity and bulldozing worthless houses.
And then there’s what happens to the rest of the $10 billion (from Bloomberg):
The remaining $10 billion in credits are supposed to be scraped together through principal reductions on “underwater” mortgages, but that doesn’t mean that the banks themselves will be taking $10 billion in losses. The settlement grants them partial credit for reducing the principal on loans that they service but don’t own, such as those contained in mortgage- backed securities. Worse still, they can earn additional “credits” toward the settlement through taxpayer-funded HAMP modifications. For example, if a servicer reduces $100,000 in principal for a mortgage through HAMP and receives a taxpayer incentive check for $40,000, it will still be able to claim $60,000 in credit toward meeting its obligations under the settlement.
That should help you sleep well tonight.