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. …

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.

Skip to next paragraph
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 04

Chasing JPMorgan: Picture the Homeless Takes Aim at Chase Bank

JPMorgan Chase head Jamie Dimon better watch out this Christmas?the homeless are coming to town.

At least 30 homeless and housing activists rallied outside the headquarters of banking giant Chase December 2 to demand that the bank utilize their ownership of vacant property in New York City to create housing for poor people and the homeless.

Activists at the rally, organized by the grassroots organization Picture the Homeless, scoffed at the $25 billion bailout received by Chase after Wall Street crumbled while the numbers of homeless people in the city are at its highest level since the Great Depression. Chase paid back the bailout money last June.

Picture the Homeless, an organization founded and led by homeless people, is pushing for the creation of a Homeless People?s Trust Fund and a Community Land Trust to create and maintain affordable housing for low-income people from the vacant property the bank owns.

?The whole point of this action is to get Chase to give up the vacant lots that they got, to us, and we?re going to turn it into housing for people who can?t afford? it, said Herberth Rodriguez, a Picture the Homeless member who is currently homeless and in the shelter system.

Demonstrators picketed outside JPMorgan Chase?s headquarters at 270 Park Ave. in midtown Manhattan as they chanted, ?Chase Bank needs to share the dough? and ?JPMorgan Chase, you?re too big for the human race.?

During last year?s financial meltdown, Chase acquired the investment bank Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. The bank?s investment arm has earned $7.6 billion so far this year, and is scheduled to dole out over $20 billion in bonuses, according to a New York State Comptroller report. JPMorgan Chase?s high earnings are part of a larger trend of big profits on Wall Street while unemployment across the country continues to rise.

?The money they have for these vacant lots, they could be using that to build homes. Homes for families, homes for single men and women,? said Picture the Homeless member Maria Walles, who currently lives in a shelter in Brooklyn.

Outside their headquarters, the entrance was barricaded while private security and the New York Police Department stood guard. At one point, the head of security met with members of Picture the Homeless and received a letter addressed to JPMorgan Chase investment officer Lauren M. Taylor from Picture the Homeless. Rob Robinson, a formerly homeless board member and housing campaign leader with Picture the Homeless, warned the security head that as long as they hold vacant property and refuse to meet with homeless people, the bank will be hounded by activists? presence.

The letter reads, ?we are here today seeking a meeting with you or whomever you suggest to discuss the disposition of vacant lots and buildings currently held by your bank to be placed in a Community Land Trust, which when coupled with sufficient bank resources placed within a Homeless Peoples Trust Fund, could enable the construction of housing that is truly affordable for our people.?

?They have over a hundred million dollars in property [in the city], let ?em go,? said Robinson. ?There?s 39,000 people sleeping in the shelters every night, and untold numbers on the streets. They have a moral obligation, since taxpayers bailed out these banks, to house people.?

The action follows Picture the Homeless? takeover of a vacant lot that JPMorgan Chase is a party to in East Harlem last July. Ten people were arrested at that action, but the charges were dropped this fall. In an October interview, Robinson speculated that JPMorgan Chase didn?t press ahead with the charges because they wanted the whole episode to go away.

There is no precise accounting of the amount of warehoused property Chase owns, but a City Council bill introduced by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Mott Haven) would require the city to conduct a census count of vacant property every year, and to publish information online and in print concerning who owns the vacant property and when the property became vacant.

?Given the fact that it?s our tax money and that it?s human beings who are going on the street, I think it?s important that we protest them and make clear our opposition to what?s happening,? said Max Rameau, a founding member of the Miami-based organization Take Back the Land.

Next Tuesday, Picture the Homeless plans to continue targeting and protesting Chase while CEO Jamie Dimon gives a speech at the Goldman Sachs Conference Center.

Nov 29

Treasury wants more lender leeway on loans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? The Treasury Department wants lenders and companies that process monthly mortgage payments to do more to rework troubled home mortgage loans and will announce new measures on Monday aimed at achieving that goal, a department spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The New York Times in its Sunday edition quoted Michael Barr, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for financial institutions, as expressing dissatisfaction with lenders over the slow pace at which they are amending loan agreements to help borrowers make their monthly payments.

“The banks are not doing a good enough job,” the Times quoted Barr saying in a Friday interview. “Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be.”

Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly said on Saturday the department was “taking additional steps to enhance (mortgage) servicer transparency and accountability as part of a broader focus on maximizing conversion rates to permanent modifications.”

That could include new resources for borrowers, Reilly said without offering details. The department will announce new measures on Monday, Reilly added.

The Treasury Department has said lenders have boosted efforts to modify mortgage payments — essentially by reducing monthly payments so that chances of foreclosure decrease. But there are widespread reports that borrowers continue to have problems negotiating with banks and mortgage brokers to get their payments lowered.

Most loans modified by banks under a program that Treasury monitors remain in a trial stage, and only a small percentage have become permanent.

Barr was quoted by the New York Times as saying that the Obama administration will try to shame lenders by publicly naming institutions that fail to move quickly enough to lower mortgage payments permanently.

“They’re not getting a penny from the federal government until they move forward,” Barr told the Times.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told the Times the Obama administration would continue to refine the mortgage program as needed. “We will not be satisfied until more program participants are transitioning from trial to permanent modifications,” Psaki was quoted as saying.

(Reporting By Glenn Somerville, editing by Will Dunham)

Oct 13

Freddie Mac redoubles loan modification efforts

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Freddie Mac, a dominant provider of housing finance money, sees tough times ahead for the U.S. residential market, even as government programs seek to soften the foreclosure crisis, two top Freddie executives told Reuters.

With “inconclusive” evidence of a housing rebound over the summer, Freddie Mac must redouble its efforts on the government programs that make modified or refinanced loans more affordable, Charles E. Haldeman, the chief executive, said in an interview late Monday at a Mortgage Bankers Association meeting here.

The company’s long-developed models aren’t signaling that the housing crisis is over, Haldeman said. With rising unemployment and the process of modifying loans unexpectedly arduous, seeds of hope from the latest data haven’t altered Freddie Mac’s outlook, he said.

“We ought to keep the pressure on to focus on doing all that we can in terms of modifications and refinancings to help the consumer, and not take much solace in the fact that maybe housing prices are bottoming out and stabilizing,” he said.

Freddie Mac came under the control of a federal regulator after falling home prices and rising defaults led to the worst housing crisis since the 1930s. Freddie lost billions of dollars on loan guarantees and securities in its portfolio.

The company’s current portfolio of both guaranteed loans and investments totals about $2.3 trillion.

In August, the company said provisions for credit losses declined in the second quarter, but would increase again.

The U.S. Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is a key effort to ease the crisis, but Freddie and its mortgage servicing companies have a lot of hard work ahead, said Haldeman and Don Bisenius, an executive vice president of its single-family mortgage credit business.

HAMP is being slowed down by the process requiring homeowners to collect various documents, the executives said. Most mortgage servicers are temporarily modifying requirements under verbal agreements.

More than one-half million troubled homeowners are in trial HAMP modifications, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said last week