Real estate flippers avoided criminal conviction because they argued, and persuaded the jurors, that the REAL criminals were the banksters!! No way!!!
‘In an unprecedented trial, four people charged with mortgage fraud were acquitted Friday by a jury in Sacramento federal court after defense attorneys argued the real culprits are the so-called victim lenders.’ Let’s do a little background.
We all know of the real estate boom, and bust, particularly in California, and specifically localized in massive numbers in California’s Central Valley. Essentially, some of us have correctly pointed out that the root cause of the onset of the bubble, were criminal bankers, beginning withBlythe Masters of JPMorgan, who conjured up the scheme of securitized finance for home mortgages. The scheme was simple: the big banks would write loans, using investor money, and none of the banks’ own money. Once the loans were made, the banks would in turn package a thousand loans or so, and bundle them up, then sell them as a whole to investors, as a security. Investors getting first dibs at repayment streams [upper tranches] were paid less interest, than investors who were last to be paid [lower tranches]. The whole theory was that out of the pool of the thousand home loans, not all would default and go bad. Since in the aggregate, most of the loan payments would be paid on time, then those investors at the upper tranches were not risking non-payment as compared to the investors and the lower tranches. The interest rates were balanced against this risk, and the securities were marketed and sold off to investors.
The problem, though, crystal clear to anyone with a brain, from the inception of the whole scheme, is in the incentive structure of the whole mess.
Not a single participant in the scheme had a single incentive to scrutinize the deal. The prospective home loan applicant, wanted a home, and inflated the income and other figures on the application. None of the bankers cared about the fake applications, because the bankers were only going to bundle the loans and sell them off, having no skin in the game and having massive incentives to get more and more loans bundled regardless of the underwriting standards or risk of default.
The investors at the upper tranches cared not. They were guaranteed first payment from the income stream. Their risk of loss was near zero. The lower tranch investors cared not either, as they were getting astronomically high rates of return, and on balance, the risk to them of defaulting payment streams was outweighed by the lucrative returns, much like unsecured credit cards. They figured there would be defaults, but the high interest rates made it, on balance, perfectly acceptable.
This post was published at TF Metals Report on August 27, 2014.