Posts Tagged ‘Wells Fargo’

One Solution to Rundown Foreclosed Houses? Bulldoze Them

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Several banks have found a new solution to the glut of foreclosed houses – many of them in poor condition.  It’s the bulldozer. Bank of America (BoA) owns a glut of abandoned houses that no one wants to purchase.  As a result, the nation’s largest mortgage servicer is bulldozing some of its most uninhabitable inventory.  Additionally, Wells Fargo, CitiCorp, JP Morgan Chase and Fannie Mae have been demolishing a few of their repossessed houses.  BoA is donating 100 foreclosed houses in the Cleveland area and in some cases will contribute to the cost of their demolition in partnership with a local agency that manages blighted property.  The bank has similar plans impacting houses in Detroit and Chicago, and more cities tare expected to be added.

“There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage abandoned homes.  “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.”  Detroit mayor Dave Bing is in the process of ” right-sizing” the motor city by razing entire neighborhoods.

BoA plans to donate and bulldoze 100 houses in Cleveland, 100 in Detroit, and 150 in Chicago.  The lender will pay up to $7,500 for demolition or $3,500 in areas eligible to receive funds through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  Uses for the land include development, open space and urban farming.  “No one needs these homes, no one is going to buy them,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at the Los Angeles office of Beacon Economics LLC.  “Bank of America is not going to be able to cover its losses, so it might as well give them away and get a little write-off and some nice public relations.”

Some foreclosed properties are so uninhabitable that the bank is willing pay to have them destroyed.  A bank spokesman said some in this category are worth less than $10,000.

Writing in The Atlantic, Daniel Indiviglio says that “The motivation here is pretty straightforward.  They get out of ongoing maintenance costs and taxes that they would have to pay as long as the property remains on the market.  But the even better news is that the banks can often write-off these properties as a result.  In some cases, banks can deduct as much as the homes’ fair market value from their income taxes.  From the real estate market’s standpoint this strategy is also positive.  With less supply, prices will stabilize more quickly.  Disposing of these foreclosures will make the market clear sooner.  And yet, the idea of bulldozing homes does seem rather unsavory, does it not?  Perhaps some of these homes are condemned and/or beyond repair.  In those cases, it might turn out to be more expensive to try to get them back up to code than it would be to knock them down and start over.  But does this really describe all of the cases?  This is reportedly happening to thousands of homes across the U.S.  My concern is that banks are using this as an easy out to minimize their loss with little concern about what’s best for the U.S. economy.  If some of these homes could be converted to perfectly adequate rental properties at minimal additional cost at some point in the future, for example, then this would make a lot more sense than knocking them down and building new homes from scratch.”

According to a Time magazine article,  “After multi-billion dollar legislative efforts in the form of the Stimulus, Dodd-Frank and stand-alone legislation, President Obama declared failure earlier this month and said he’s going back to the drawing board on a housing fix.  Negotiations between the 50 state attorneys general and the big mortgage lenders, rather than clearing the air for banks and borrowers, has become an enormous wet blanket as negotiations drag out and banks refuse to make any move without knowing how much of the reported $20 billion settlement will fall on them.  Economists argue that the failure to clear the housing market is a primary cause of the stunted recovery: continued household debt weighs on consumer spending, home ownership and excessive debt puts a drag on labor mobility, and banks fear the consequences of increased lending.”

Regulators Cracking Down on Banks Over Foreclosures

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Federal regulators at the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Housing, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, have ordered the nation’s largest banks to revamp their foreclosure procedures and compensate borrowers who were financially hurt by “pervasive” bad behavior or carelessness.  According to the bank regulators, failure to comply with the rules will result in fines and a broad investigation conducted by state attorneys general and other federal agencies.  The regulators acted after being criticized for not putting a halt to risky lending practices during the housing boom.

Describing the lending practices as “a pattern of misconduct and negligence,” the Federal Reserve said that “These deficiencies represent significant and pervasive compliance failures and unsafe and unsound practices at these institutions.”  Borrowers in trouble have complained that applying for a modification using the Obama administration’s program has been too complicated and characterized by multiple games of telephone tag.  Enforcement requires servicers to set up compliance programs and hire an independent firm to review residential-foreclosures.  The banks will be required to make sure that communications are more “effective” between borrowers and banks when it comes to foreclosure and mortgage-modification proceedings.

Citibank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, the nation’s four leading banks, top the list of financial firms cited by the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  Citigroup said that it had “self-identified” desired changes in 2009 and that it has helped more than 1.1 million homeowners avoid foreclosure.  “We are committed to working with our regulators to further strengthen our programs in these areas and meeting these new requirements,” the company said.

As stern as the recent move seems to be, there are still critics.  “These consent orders are worse than doing nothing,” said Alys Cohen, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.  “They set the bar so low on some things and they give the banks carte blanche on others.  And they give the appearance of doing something while giving banks control of the process.”  Additionally, consumer advocates and members of Congress said the new rules are too little, too late.

Congressional critics maintain that the order is too moderate.  House Democrats introduced legislation that would require lenders to perform specific actions, including an appeals process, before starting foreclosures.  “I want to know what abuses (the government agencies) identified, which banks committed them and how their proposed consent agreement is going to fix these problems,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) the ranking member of the House Government and Oversight Committee.  “Based on what I have read…I am not encouraged at all.”

More than 50 consumer groups don’t like the settlement,  and claim that the expected settlements do little more than require mortgage servicers to obey existing laws and that they lack penalties.  “They’re left to police their new improvements,” said Katherine Porter, a University of Iowa law professor who is an expert on mortgage services.  Another concern is that the settlements may weaken the ability of 50 state attorneys general to force concessions from mortgage servicers.  The attorneys general have been investigating mortgage servicers since last fall, and in March sent the companies a list of terms, which go further than those pursued by bank regulators.  Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who’s leading the joint effort, says any settlements with banking regulators will not “pre-empt” the states’ efforts.

Federal Reserve Comes Clean on Who Received Bailout Money

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Federal Reserve Comes Clean on Who Received Bailout MoneyAt the instruction of Congress, the Federal Reserve has released the names of the approximately 21,000 recipients of $3.3 trillion in aid provided during the financial meltdown –without doubt the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Not surprisingly, two of the top beneficiaries were Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who received approximately $45 billion each from the Term Auction Facility.  American units of the Swiss bank UBS, the French bank Societe Generale and German bank Dresdner Bank AG also received financial assistance.  The Fed posted the information on its website in compliance with a provision of the Dodd-Frank bill that imposed strict new financial regulations on Wall Street.

One of the biggest surprises on the list is the fact that General Electric accessed a Fed program no fewer than 12 times for a total of $16 billion.  Although the Fed originally objected, Congress demanded accountability because there was evidence that the central bank had gone beyond their usual role of supporting banks.  In addition, the Fed purchased short-term IOUs from corporations, risky assets from Bear Stearns and more than $1 trillion in housing debt.

Reactions to the revelations are both positive and negative.  On the positive side, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said “We owe an accounting to the American people of who we have lent money to.  It is a good step toward broader transparency.”  Sarah Binder, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, disagrees, noting that “These disclosures come at a politically opportune time for the Fed.  Just when Chairman Bernanke is trying to defend the Fed from Republican critics of its asset purchases, the Fed’s wounds from the financial crisis are reopened.”

Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) said “We see this (list) not as the end of a process but really a significant step forward in opening the veil of secrecy that exists in one of the most powerful agencies in government.  Given the size of these commitments, it is incomprehensible that the American people have not received specific details about them.”

Banks Are Hiring as CMBS Restarts

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Banks are starting to hire again as they return to structuring CMBS, a sign that the financial markets are gradually returning to normal.  “I see lots of friends who used to be employed, and weren’t for a while, and are now being rehired by institutions,” said Jonathan Strain, debt capital markets director at JPMorgan Chase’s CMBS division.Banks rehiring staff to work on new CMBS.

This industry-wide hiring is evidence of the banking sector’s effort to recover from the depths of the Great Recession and rebuild the capability of providing liquidity to refinance commercial real estate owners who need to recapitalize their portfolios.  Industry leaders believe that CMBS may never recover to its 2007 origination peak of $237 billion.  So far this year, CMBS originations total just over $1 billion.  According to one banker, the CMBS market may eke out $10 billion in 2010; that could ultimately grow to a total of $100 billion annually several years down the road.

According to Lisa Pendergast, managing director with Jeffries Group, Inc., “Supply will be far less than what we were accustomed to.”  Pendergast also is president of the CRE Finance Council, the industry’s leading trade group.

May Foreclosures, Seizures Reach an All-Time High

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Bank repossessions of homes rose 44 percent in May over the same month last year, reaching an all-time high and with increases occurring in every state as lenders stepped up the rate of seizures. Realty Trac, Inc., an Irvine, CA-based data company that tracks foreclosures, reports that bank repossessions totaled 93,777 in May, with filings — including default and auction notices — soaring to 322,920.  In other words, one out of every 400 households in the United States has now received a filing.Banks seized 93,777 homes in May setting record.

According to Rick Sharga, Realty Trac’s senior vice president for marketing, “We’re nowhere near out of the woods.  We’re likely to set a record for home seizures if June is anything like May.  The second quarter won’t be the peak.  I’m not even sure 2010 will be.”  April previously held the record for the most seizures – 92,432 of them.  Sharga believes that an additional 5,000,000 delinquent mortgages will end in foreclosure.

Approximately 25 percent of American homeowners are under water – they owe more than their homes are worth – notes Zillow.com. Bank sales of foreclosed houses comprised more than 20 percent of all transactions in March.  Some of the largest lenders – primarily Wells Fargo & Company and Bank of America – are giving homeowners who owe more than 120 percent of what their houses are worth a helping hand by cutting the principal.  “Marginal people, those types who were working as laborers, are most affected by foreclosures,” said Albert Kyle, a finance professor at the University of Maryland’s R. M. Smith School of Business.  “A lot of foreclosures are occurring in modest homes.”

Wells Fargo, LNR Looking to Sell $2 Billion in Distressed Assets

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

One bank, one special servicer, both offering $1 billion in distressed real estate.  Wells Fargo & Company and LNR Property Corporation are hunting for buyers for $1 billion each of distressed commercial real estate assets and loans.  San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest commercial real estate lender, is soliciting bids on $500 million to $1 billion worth of office and hotels.  LNR, the nation’s largest CBMS special servicer, is looking for buyers for approximately $1 billion worth of defaulted loans.

“The availability of capital and better prices than a year ago are driving sellers to move things off their balance sheets,” says Matthew Anderson, managing director at research firm Foresight Analytics.  “Depending on how the auction goes, you may see more of this.”  According to Anderson, banks and special servicers currently are holding approximately $185 billion in distressed loans.  Of those, Wells Fargo had $12.9 billion in non-performing loans in the 1st quarter.  LNR is the special servicer for $24 billion in delinquent assets, according to Bloomberg.

Wells Fargo and LNR were left holding real estate debt once the global credit crisis and recession sent commercial values down a whopping 42 percent from their October of 2007 high.  The majority – as much as 60 percent — of the assets that Wells Fargo is selling were inherited when the bank purchased Wachovia Corporation in October 2008.  If Wells Fargo and LNR can sell the properties, the move would represent an improved market for distressed assets, according to Ben Thypin, an analyst with Real Capital Analytics, Inc.

“We’re certainly aggressive in terms of liquidating the portfolio,” said David Hoyt, who heads Wells Fargo’s wholesale banking arm.  “At the moment, there is a lot of liquidity in the market to resolve problems.”

Is CRE Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

First quarter bank returns for commercial real estate not as bad as once predicted.  As the 1st quarter 2010 numbers come in, banks across the country are still uneasy about the short-term outlook for commercial real estate – and their portfolios in particular.  At the same time, there is a growing sense that the potential for disaster has faded and that problems are being resolved.

In general, banks reported that troubled loan assets were moving through their books.  Older construction loans are being converted to term loans, which gives borrowers an opportunity to hang on when cash flow is sluggish.  At the same time, banks are reporting that new non-performing commercial real estate loans were coming in at a slower pace.  Some loans labeled as non-performing were moving into the real estate owned (REO) grouping, meaning that they will eventually be sold back into the marketplace.  The International Monetary Fund’s April 2010 Global Financial Stability Report offers a fairly optimistic point of view for bank losses in the near future, as anticipated write-downs on U.S. bank’s loan and securities books diminished in comparison to late last year.

“These improved short-term losses are due primarily to two factors.  First, signs of an improving economic environment have decreased loss expectations,” said Mark Fitzgerald, senior debt analyst for CoStar Group.  “Second, some write-downs have simply been pushed forward as external factors, including low interest rates, have enabled banks to push off distress into the future.  What are the implications for commercial real estate investors?  The banks supply approximately 50 percent of all debt capital to the sector, so lending capital could be constrained for some time.  However, there is a bright side.  If we continue to follow our current path, and distressed assets bleed slowly into the market over time, then healthy lenders may have enough capacity to meet low transaction volumes (especially with depressed pricing).  The large banks that have recently reported healthy earnings (primarily due to their trading and fixed-income operations) are a potential source of capital, and these banks have historically been under-allocated to commercial real estate compared to the overall banking sector.”

TARP Banks Lending on the Rise

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Lending by banks that received TARP assistance rose 13 percent in December.  Eleven American banks that received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) originated 13 percent more loans in December than they had the previous month. The Department of the Treasury released this information in its monthly survey of loans made by recipients of the $700 billion government bailout money.

According to the Treasury Department, total loan balances fell one percent during the same timeframe.  This report does not include statistics from banks that repaid their TARP funds in June of 2009; future reports will not include data from banks that are exiting the TARP program.

A total of $178.1 billion in new loans was made during December, according to the Treasury.  Bank of America led the pack in originating loans, with $64.6 billion, an 11 percent increase over November.  Wells Fargo & Company occupied second place with a six percent increase, reporting $58.3 billion in new loans.  Citigroup lent $16.3 billion, an 11 percent increase.

Fed Proposing to Take a Hard Line on Bank Executive Pay

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Fed Proposing to Take a Hard Line on Bank Executive PayThe Federal Reserve is considering regulating banks’ pay policies to make certain they discourage employees from making the irresponsible gambles that led to 2008’s financial meltdown.  The Fed’s proposal would apply to thousands of banks, including some that did not receive bailouts.

Under the Fed’s proposal, the central bank would review – and could say “no” – to pay policies that might result in excessive risk-taking by executives, traders or loan officers.  The move marks the Fed’s most recent response to critics who say it didn’t crack down on lax lending, reckless risk taking and other practices that led to the great recession.  If the proposal is adopted, the 28 largest banks would develop internal plans to assure that compensation doesn’t start a new round of disproportionate risk taking.  Although the Fed declined to identify which banks would be required to submit plans, it’s safe to say that Citigroup, Inc., Bank of America Corporation and Wells Fargo & Company will be on that list.

“Compensation practices at some banking organizations have led to misaligned incentives and excessive risk-taking, contributing to bank losses and financial instability,” says Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.  “The Federal Reserve is working to ensure that compensation packages appropriately tie rewards to longer-term performance and do not create undue risk for the firm or the financial system.”

The key concept here is that of moral hazard – creating a correlation between performance and remuneration so that people are always compelled to act in the general interest.

One Year After Financial Meltdown, Obama Counsels Caution

Monday, September 21st, 2009

On the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial crisis,  President Barack Obama used a Wall Street speech to call for stringent new regulation of United States markets.  After Lehman’s collapse, the American government infused billions of dollars into the financial system and took major stakes in Wall Street’s most famous names.  Although this action stabilized the system, it could not forestall a shrinking economy or the highest unemployment rate in 26 years.lehmanbros

“We can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break,” he said.  As the economy begins a “return to normalcy,” Obama said, “normalcy cannot lead to complacency.”

Lobbyists, lawmakers and even regulators so far have opposed proposals to more closely monitor the financial system. The five biggest banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America – posted second-quarter 2009 profits totaling $13 billion.  That is more than twice their profits in the second quarter of 2008 and nearly two-thirds as much as the $20.7 billion they earned in the same timeframe two years ago – a time when the economy was considered strong.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is the point man for formulating new rules.  President Obama wants stricter capital requirements for banks to prevent them from purchasing exotic financial products without keeping adequate cash on hand.  It was precisely this type of behavior that caused last year’s financial crisis.