Congressional Oversight Panel Examination of Foreclosure Crisis (11/15/2010 Report, Video)

The Congressional Oversight Panel released a report (pdf) on 11/15/2010 titled: Examining the Consequences of Mortgage Irregularities for Financial Stability and Foreclosure Mitigation (hat tip Housing Wire). Below is an excerpt from the executive summary and a video with Senator Ted Kaufman giving an introduction.

"Executive Summary*

In the fall of 2010, reports began to surface alleging that companies servicing $6.4 trillion in American mortgages may have bypassed legally required steps to foreclose on a home. Employees or contractors of Bank of America, GMAC Mortgage, and other major loan servicers testified that they signed, and in some cases backdated, thousands of documents claiming personal knowledge of facts about mortgages that they did not actually know to be true.

Allegations of “robo-signing” are deeply disturbing and have given rise to ongoing federal and state investigations. At this point the ultimate implications remain unclear. It is possible, however, that “robo-signing” may have concealed much deeper problems in the mortgage market that could potentially threaten financial stability and undermine the government‟s efforts to mitigate the foreclosure crisis. Although it is not yet possible to determine whether such threats will materialize, the Panel urges Treasury and bank regulators to take immediate steps to understand and prepare for the potential risks.

In the best-case scenario, concerns about mortgage documentation irregularities may prove overblown. In this view, which has been embraced by the financial industry, a handful of employees failed to follow procedures in signing foreclosure-related affidavits, but the facts underlying the affidavits are demonstrably accurate. Foreclosures could proceed as soon as the invalid affidavits are replaced with properly executed paperwork.

The worst-case scenario is considerably grimmer. In this view, which has been articulated by academics and homeowner advocates, the “robo-signing” of affidavits served to cover up the fact that loan servicers cannot demonstrate the facts required to conduct a lawful foreclosure. In essence, banks may be unable to prove that they own the mortgage loans they claim to own.

The risk stems from the possibility that the rapid growth of mortgage securitization outpaced the ability of the legal and financial system to track mortgage loan ownership. In earlier years, under the traditional mortgage model, a homeowner borrowed money from a single bank and then paid back the same bank. In the rare instances when a bank transferred its rights, the sale was recorded by hand in the borrower‟s county property office. Thus, the ownership of any individual mortgage could be easily demonstrated.

Nowadays, a single mortgage loan may be sold dozens of times between various banks across the country. In the view of some market participants, the sheer speed of the modern mortgage market has rendered obsolete the traditional ink-and-paper recordation process, so the financial industry developed an electronic transfer process that bypasses county property offices.

This electronic process has, however, faced legal challenges that could, in an extreme scenario, call into question the validity of 33 million mortgage loans."

[Read the full report here (]

Related: Housing Wire (COP: Robo-signers may jeopardize 33 million mortgages, securitization)