Janet Tavakoli On The "Biggest Fraud In The History Of Capital Markets"

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In the following interview with the WaPo's Ezra Klein, Janet Tavakoli shares some more information on why every bank is about to shut down all foreclosures, in what she calls the "biggest fraud in the history of capital markets." Not very surprisingly, we are, so far, spot on in our 29th September projected timeline at this point: "We predict that within a week, all banks will halt every foreclosure currently in process. Within a month, all foreclosures executed within the past 2-3 years will be retried, and millions of existing home sales will be put in jeopardy."

Ezra Klein: What’s happening here? Why are we suddenly faced with a crisis that wasn’t apparent two weeks ago?

Janet Tavakoli: This is the biggest fraud in the history of the
capital markets. And it’s not something that happened last week. It
happened when these loans were originated, in some cases years ago.
Loans have representations and warranties that have to be met. In the
past, you had a certain period of time, 60 to 90 days, where you sort
through these loans and, if they’re bad, you kick them back. If the
documentation wasn’t correct, you’d kick it back. If you found the
incomes of the buyers had been overstated, or the houses had been
appraised at twice their worth, you’d kick it back. But that didn’t
happen here. And it turned out there were loan files that were missing
required documentation. Part of putting the deal together is that the
securitization professional, and in this case that’s banks like Goldman
Sachs and JP Morgan, has to watch for this stuff. It’s called perfecting
the security interest, and it’s not optional.

EK: And how much danger are the banks themselves in?

JT: When we had the financial crisis, the first thing the banks did
was run to Congress and ask for accounting relief. They asked to be able
to avoid pricing this stuff at the price where people would buy them.
So no one can tell you the size of the hole in these balance sheets.
We’ve thrown a lot of money at it. TARP was just the tip of the iceberg.
We’ve given them guarantees on debts, low-cost funding from the Fed.
But a lot of these mortgages just cannot be saved. Had we acknowledged
this problem in 2005, we could’ve cleaned it up for a few hundred
billion dollars. But we didn’t. Banks were lying and committing fraud,
and our regulators were covering them and so a bad problem has become a
hellacious one.

EK: My understanding is that this now pits the banks against
the investors they sold these products too. The investors are going to
court to argue that the products were flawed and the banks need to take
them back.

JT: Many investors now are waking up to the fact that they were
defrauded. Even sophisticated investors. If you did your due diligence
but material information was withheld, you can recover. It’ll be a
case-by-by-case basis.

EK: Given that our financial system is still fragile, isn’t that a disaster for the economy? Will credit freeze again?

JT: I disagree. In order to make the financial system healthy, we
need to recognize the extent of our losses and begin facing the fraud.
Then the market will be trustworthy again and people will start to
participate.

EK: It sounds almost like you’re saying we still need to go through the end of our financial crisis.

JT: Yes, but I wouldn’t say crisis. This can be done with a
resolution trust corporation, the way we cleaned up the S&Ls. The
system got back on its feet faster because we grappled with the
problems. The shareholders would be wiped out and the debt holders would
have to take a discount on their debt and they’d get a debt-for-equity
swap. Instead we poured TARP money into a pit and meanwhile the banks
are paying huge bonuses to some people who should be made accountable
for fraud. The financial crisis was a product of our irrational
reaction, which protected crony capitalism rather than capitalism. In
capitalism, the shareholders who took the risk would be wiped out and
the debt holders would take a discount but banking would go on.