Mar 06

Nice that Chase has Are they trying to tell you something.

Highlights from JPMorgan Chase’s ongoing efforts to improve our economy’s health. … Please contact us if you need assistance with your Chase accounts. …

Feb 19

Obama to tout housing help Friday in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – President Barack Obama is unveiling $1.5 billion in housing help, a boost timed to his appearance in the city with the worst foreclosure crisis in the nation.

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President Barack Obama salutes during his arrival at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama’s move, detailed by aides in advance of his town hall here Friday, is the latest by a White House determined to show it is helping families rebound from a deep recession. The downturn is taking an election-year toll on Obama’s party as voter frustration builds.

Obama was to announce that housing finance agencies in the five hardest-hit states in the housing crisis will receive $1.5 billion to help spur local solutions to the problem. Those five are Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada.

The policy wrinkle comes during a two-day Western trip with different agendas for the president. He will be back in town-hall mode, a venue that aides say allows him to connect with people and distance himself from the messy process of Washington governing.

The president is also out to help vulnerable senators protect their seats and, in turn, gain as much legislative leverage as he can.

At the town hall and a business speech he will be lending his support to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a top 2010 election target of Republicans.

Obama’s political involvement comes as the Democrats’ command of the Senate grows shakier, jeopardizing the president’s agenda. The tide of change that Obama rode to office is threatening to slam against his own party.

The first day of the trip was all politics. Obama campaigned Thursday for Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado in Denver, then held a $1 million fundraiser for Democrats in Las Vegas. Reid is one of Obama’s allies, despite a flap over the president’s tendency to refer to Las Vegas as a symbol of imprudent spending, which has the city’s mayor fuming at the president.

For Obama, slowing the foreclosure rate is a key step in the recovery of the overall economy. Millions of people have lost their homes because they couldn’t afford the mortgages anymore, and millions lost jobs because of the associated slowdown in new home building.

Reid’s state leads the nation in home foreclosures; Las Vegas was the metro area with the highest foreclosure rate in January, with one in every 82 homes receiving such a filing.

The money for the new rescue effort will come from the $700 billion financial industry bailout program, according to a senior administration official who spoke anonymously Thursday night because the formal announcement had not been made.

Economic issues, such as unemployment or reduced income, are expected to be the main catalysts for foreclosures this year. Initially, subprime mortgages were mostly the culprit, but homeowners with good credit who took out conventional, fixed-rate loans are the fastest growing group of foreclosures.

Obama will cap his Las Vegas trip with a speech to the city’s Chamber of Commerce before returning to Washington later Friday.

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Adrian Sainz contributed to this report.

Dec 14

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message UPDATE

I emailed Senator Dianne Feinstein to see what they were doing to help out the home owners in America. As you know nothing has worked, but the saving of the large banks. When I received a generic email response from Senator Dianne Feinstein it pissed me off to no end. First off there have only been 33,000 loans nationwide made by the Obama plan considering that there are millions of people who need them out there – really bad odds. More would have been accomplished if Obama and his Administration would have done nothing. Why can’t congress and the Government cut their own pay until this is all over. The cost of California government has grown an amazing 80 percent over the past ten years.

Best Regards

Dear Mr. :

Thank you for contacting me regarding housing market reforms and foreclosure prevention legislation. I recognize how important this issue is, and would like to share with you what Congress and the Obama Administration have done to help.

Like you, I am very concerned about this severe economic crisis, which has been caused in part by the declining housing market. As you may know, I supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-343) to help ease the flow of credit and stabilize financial markets. As part of President Obama’s efforts to reduce foreclosures, the Administration is using $75 billion of economic rescue funds to implement a mortgage modification program. Specifically, the modification program would require that mortgages in cases where refinancing is more cost effective than foreclosure be modified to make monthly payments more affordable.

Additionally, President Obama is implementing a systematic program through the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance loans into more affordable interest rates. This program targets homeowners who have lost equity due to the housing market decline, yet have not defaulted on their payments. I am hopeful that these programs will fulfill the President’s promise to help American homeowners.
For further information about efforts that the Administration is taking to assist Americans during this difficult time, please visit and

Please know that I will keep your comments and suggestions in mind should further legislation to address our country’s housing crisis come before the Senate.

Once again, thank you for writing. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the Nation are available at my website You can also receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at

Dec 12

Bankers win the war, ‘distressed’ homeowners left on hook

Guess those mortgage bankers showed Congress who’s the boss … They are!

Only a day after the Mortgage Bankers Association fired off a stern letter of warning to Congressional leaders about attempts to change foreclosure bankruptcy laws to ease the plight of those facing foreclosure and help end the still threatening housing crisis, the House of ‘Who The Heck Are We Representatives?” shot the proposal dead.

But make no mistake about it, the House may have been holding the gun, but the mortgage bankers provided the ammunition.

It was, as is often the case, billed as a compromise — -in order to pass so-called tougher rules governing Wall Street (though even those have been severely watered down).

The House previously had passed the measure, but the Senate — often more impacted by lobbyists of all types — said “no.” The Obama administration once was in support of these changes but backed away from them under pressure from the banks, some critics claim.

What the now dead changes would have done:

Pure and simple, under current bankruptcy laws, judges have great flexibility to modify second mortgages (such as on the vacation homes of the now fiscally-challenged rich and questionably-famous) including, under certain condition, the actual principal of the loan.

The proposed changes would have allowed bankruptcy judges this same flexibility with primary mortgages …YOUR mortgage, perhaps!

Now, I know there are a lot of folks out there who believe that it is unfair for a judge to be able to reduce the principal mortgage loan for one individual who, perhaps, got in way over his or her head by buying the home to begin with, while those who “played by the rules” have to continue to pay the full amount of their mortgage loan.

The problem with this thinking is, as many economists will tell you, it does no one’s property value good to have neighbors on the block in foreclosure. The proof of this is the past two years or so of greatly reduced property values in most parts of the nation.

When viewed from this angle, a judge reducing someone’s principal — or setting up other binding conditions for mortgage loan modification — is a small price to be paid.

The greater good:

But the bigger issue really is this — by every measure available, the current mortgage modification programs are pretty much dismal failures with far, far fewer homeowners benefiting from them than what the Obama administration had promised.

Banks and other mortgage lenders have put up many roadblocks — not the least of which has been cumbersome paperwork that is apparently often lost or mishandled by bank employees — to permanent mortgage modification, leaving many distressed homeowners in a sort of limbo. And, even those who do manage to slip through and land a permanent mortgage modification, usually only have their interest payments reduced, but end up having to pay off the loan over a longer period of time costing them even more money in the end!

That is why what the House did Friday — or didn’t do in this case — threatens to slow down and maybe even abort any meaningful long range recovery in the housing market.

The best chance for that would have been passing legislation allowing bankruptcy judges to do what they do best — judge fairly! Sadly, that chance has now apparently been abandoned.

Charles Feldman is a journalist,media consultant and the co-author of the book, ” No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle.”

Dec 10

Winning Lower Payments Takes Patience, and Luck

Published: November 28, 2009
On the day in June when her mortgage company finally agreed to lower her monthly payments, Yolanda Thomas felt a twinge of hope that she would hold on to her Queens apartment, the first home she had ever owned. The loan modification extended by Chase Home Finance was technically a trial, not a permanent alteration, but this fact seemed of lesser significance.

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U.S. Will Push Mortgage Firms to Reduce More Loan Payments (November 29, 2009) ?I felt they were working with me,? Ms. Thomas said. ?I felt very positive and hopeful, like I had a chance to keep my house.?

But five months later, Ms. Thomas, 35, is back at the beginning. She has made her reduced payments on time. She has submitted the proper paperwork, she says, while enduring a bewildering array of conflicting instructions from her bank. But last month, Chase rejected her application for a permanent loan modification and invited her to start over and send in a new application, for another trial.

?At this point, I don?t know what is going on,? she said.

Ms. Thomas?s experience shows the confusing and frustrating ways of the Obama administration program aimed at keeping millions of troubled American borrowers in their homes.

Four years ago, she bought her apartment ? a three-bedroom condominium in Ozone Park ? for $530,000, putting down about 10 percent and borrowing the rest through an interest-only loan from Washington Mutual. Given her $130,000 salary at a marketing job, she had no difficulty making the $2,700 monthly payments. Indeed, she continued to add to her savings, which grew to about $80,000, while paying college tuition for two younger brothers.

But in April 2008, amid the recession, Ms. Thomas was laid off. She continued to make her mortgage payments by tapping her savings. By that fall, with her savings nearly exhausted and credit-card debt mounting, she turned to a housing counselor at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a nonprofit group based in Brooklyn. The counselor began seeking a loan modification from Washington Mutual, which had been purchased in distress by JPMorgan Chase.

This March ? after several rounds of mislaid paperwork and resubmitted forms ? Chase extended a so-called forbearance arrangement, allowing her to make no payments for two months while she continued to look for a job.

Ms. Thomas soon found a new marketing job that paid roughly half as much as her previous position. In June, on the basis of that income, Chase approved her for a trial loan modification, which reduced her payments to $1,174.30 a month.

The trial loan modification documents that Ms. Thomas signed promised that the new payments would become permanent, provided she made her three trial payments on time and then submitted required documents confirming her financial situation.

According to notes kept by Ms. Thomas, Chase promised not to report her to credit agencies as delinquent while she made her lowered payments. But by early July, Chase collection agents were calling regularly, threatening to foreclose. Chase reported her to credit agencies as delinquent, which increased the interest on her credit card debt and her car insurance rates. When Ms. Thomas began calling Chase to try to reverse this, she got nowhere.

?Once, I was told this happens all the time,? she said. ?Then I was told that this never happens and there was nothing that could be done. It was just bad information all the time.?

In a letter this month, Chase told Ms. Thomas that it had asked major credit rating agencies to ?remove any negative payment history? from her credit profile. But this admission that the bank had made a mistake was itself made in error, Tom Kelly, a Chase spokesman, said.

?We actually should not have sent her the letter,? Mr. Kelly said, maintaining that Ms. Thomas should indeed have been reported to the credit agencies. ?We?re not always perfect.?

As her trial period ended at the beginning of October, Ms. Thomas still had no word about a permanent loan modification, so she sent in a fourth month?s payment.

In late October, Chase told her that she had been turned down for a permanent loan modification because her income was insufficient. She insists that her income remained the same, though Chase produced a pay stub showing that she had in fact worked full-time in May and only part-time in September, earning less.

Two days later, Ms. Thomas received a letter from Chase saying that her application was still being considered, but missing a required tax document. Then, by phone, Chase told her that, never mind, she should start over.

Despite the mishaps, the Chase spokesman says, Ms. Thomas?s case amounts to a success story.

?She?s ahead of where she would have been without this program,? Mr. Kelly said.

Where she is now is in limbo, awaiting word on another trial modification, this time based on her new salary of about $100,000, courtesy of a new job.

?I?ve been working my whole life and paying my bills,? she said. ?I just want to pay my mortgage.?

Dec 08

Hit Hard By Home Foreclosures

At a Congressional hearing on the foreclosure crisis, a Cuyahoga County official said the situation is “worse than it’s ever been – far worse.”

Paul Bellamy, who oversees the Foreclosure Prevention Program for County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, says the problem is quiet because the banking industry has changed the rules. “The industry is not processing loans the way it used to,” Bellamy says. “It makes it look liked we’ve leveled off, and in fact, we haven’t.”

Chairing the hearing was Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who called Cleveland “the epicenter of home foreclosures in the United States.”

Kucinich said the government had not adequately addressed the crisis when it gave the nation’s major banks bailout money last fall. One proposal put on the table was to force banks that took bailout money to offer better terms to people facing foreclosure.

But Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from southern Ohio, said government is not the answer. “If big federal government spending, big federal government regulation was going to get us out of this economic downturn,” Jordan said, “we’d have been out of it a long time ago because that’s all the government has been doing.”

Dec 01

Feds step up pressure on mortgage companies

WASHINGTON — Faced with sluggish progress in its foreclosure-prevention effort, the Obama administration will spend the coming weeks cracking down on mortgage companies that aren’t doing enough to help borrowers at risk of losing their homes.

Treasury Department officials said Monday they will step up pressure on the 71 companies participating in the government’s $75 billion effort to stem the foreclosure crisis. They will start this week by sending three-person “SWAT teams” to monitor the eight largest companies’ work and requesting twice-daily reports on their progress.

The mortgage companies, also known as loan servicers, have had a hard time getting borrowers to complete the needed paperwork for the administration’s loan modification program. Nearly 60 percent of the 375,000 borrowers who qualify to have their loan modifications completed by year-end have either submitted incomplete paperwork or none at all.

“Borrowers must understand the urgency of getting their completed paperwork in so they do not miss out on the opportunity for more affordable mortgage payments,” said Phyllis Caldwell, who recently was named to lead the Treasury Department’s homeownership preservation office.

The program, announced by President Barack Obama in February, allows homeowners to have their mortgage interest rate reduced to as low as 2 percent for five years.

The administration is feeling intense pressure from lawmakers and consumer advocates to speed up progress. As of early September, only about 1,700 homeowners had finished all the paperwork and received a new permanent loan. About one-third of borrowers who have submitted complete applications are still waiting for a decision.

Treasury will publish a list next week of the mortgage companies that are lagging. While big lenders like Citigroup and Wells Fargo have made double-digit gains in the percentage of eligible borrowers they have signed up for trial modifications, other companies like Ocwen Financial and American Home Mortgage Servicing have only increased their borrower participation by 6 percentage points or less since July.

Paul Koches, executive vice president of Ocwen, said his company had already saved 90,000 of its roughly 370,000 distressed homeowners from foreclosure before the government program began. As of October, Ocwen had started trial modifications for 11 percent of its borrowers, up from 5 percent in July.

At American Home, spokeswoman Christine Sullivan said the company has a “large, dedicated team” working on the Obama plan, but also noted that the company modified more than 60,000 loans outside the Obama plan over the past year.

Some companies have barely made any inroads. HomEq Servicing, a division of Barclays Capital, only signed up in August. As of October, it had only started 91 trial modifications out of a pool of nearly 41,000 eligible homeowners.

The participating mortgage companies signed contracts earlier this year that give the government the right to withhold incentive payments or end their contracts with Treasury. But mortgage companies don’t receive those payments until they make a modification permanent, so there is little leverage over companies that aren’t performing well. That difficulty, consumer advocates say, highlights the program’s key flaw: Since participation was voluntary, the government has little it can do besides shaming the industry into doing better.

“There’s no meaningful accountability,” said Diane Thompson, counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “If you just aren’t doing the loan mods, so what?”

And then there’s lender limbo. About one-third of borrowers have submitted complete applications but haven’t received a decision.

“In our judgment, servicers to date have not done a good enough job” of making the modifications permanent, said Michael Barr, an assistant Treasury secretary. Companies, he said, “that don’t meet their obligations under the program are going to suffer consequences.”

Industry executives acknowledge there have been problems.

“The documents were confusing. Borrowers did not understand the process wasn’t closed until the documents came in,” Sanjiv Das, chief executive of Citigroup’s mortgage unit, said earlier this month. “Even when the documents came in, they were not always complete.”

Mortgage finance company Freddie Mac has hired an outside company, Titanium Solutions Inc., to send real estate agents around the country to knock on borrowers’ doors and help them complete the paperwork.

“It can be a little bit intimidating,” said Patrick Carey, Titanium’s chief executive. “They don’t, in many cases, understand exactly what is being asked of them.”

Analysts, meanwhile, say the foreclosure crisis is likely to persist well into next year as rising unemployment pushes more people out of their homes.

About 14 percent of homeowners with mortgages were either behind on payments or in foreclosure at the end of September, a record level for the ninth straight quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Nov 28

Obama’s Administration plans new efforts on foreclosures. Great more money down the toilet.

Search & Win

The Obama administration, battling a foreclosure crisis that shows no signs of relenting, will step up pressure on mortgage companies to do more to help people remain in their homes, officials said Saturday.

The administration will announce its expanded program on Monday, Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly said.

“We are taking additional steps to enhance servicer transparency and accountability,” Reilly said. She said the goal was to increase the rate that troubled home loans were converted into new loans with lower monthly payments.

Industry officials said the new effort would include increased pressure on mortgage companies to accelerate loan modifications by highlighting firms that are lagging in that area.

The Treasury is also expected to announce that it will wait until the loan modifications are permanent before paying cash incentives to mortgage companies that lower loan payments.

Under the $75 billion Treasury program, companies that agree to lower payments for troubled borrowers collect $1,000 initially from the government for each loan, followed by $1,000 annually for up to three years.

The government support, which is provided from the $700 billion financial bailout program, is aimed at providing cash incentives for mortgage providers to accept smaller mortgage payments rather than foreclosing on homes.

The program has come under heavy criticism for failing to do enough to attack a tidal wave of foreclosures. Analysts said the foreclosure crisis is likely to persist well into next year as high unemployment pushes more people out of their homes.

Rising foreclosures depress home prices and threaten the sustainability of the fledgling economic recovery.

A report last week from the Mortgage Bankers Association found that 14 percent of homeowners with mortgages were either behind on payments or in foreclosure at the end of September, a record level for the ninth straight quarter.

The Congressional Oversight Panel, a committee that monitors spending under Treasury’s bailout program, concluded in a report last month that foreclosures are now threatening families who took out conventional, fixed-rate mortgages and put down payments of 10 to 20 percent on homes that would have been within their means in a normal market.

Treasury’s program, known as the Home Affordable Modification Program, “is targeted at the housing crisis as it existed six months ago, rather than as it exists right now,” the report said.

Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, said the industry supported many of the changes Treasury was proposing.

But he said the foreclosure problem, which began with heavy defaults on subprime mortgages, was expanding to more traditional types of mortgages because of unemployment which has now hit a 26-year high of 10.2 percent.

“The subprime problem has regrettably morphed into an unemployment problem,” Talbott said. He said there was no government program to help the unemployed who are in danger of losing their homes but “many private lenders are modifying loans for the unemployed on their own.”

Treasury’s Reilly said the expanded program would, among other steps, make more aid available to struggling borrowers and expand the number of organizations providing help.


Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 AP News

Jul 18

New Troubles For A Troubled Washington Mortgage Plan. Snap.

As the Obama administration attempts to turn around the beleaguered Hope for Homeowners program to fight foreclosures, it faces a nettlesome new headache. The primary lender involved is under investigation by the Department of Justice. snap.

Senior federal housing officials say that of 51 loans made under the program, 50 were made by Melville, N.Y.-based Lend America, and those 50 loans are being held up pending ongoing federal investigations. The officials, who insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter, declined to offer specifics except to say anything from inadequate documentation to unethical practices could be the focus of the queries.