Mortgage Settlement? Not So Fast!

Mortgage bondholders are threatening legal action over the $25 billion national mortgage settlement, which will give the five largest servicers credits for principal writedowns that the bondholders may be forced to take. As American Banker notes, the investors in those trusts were not a party to the settlement agreement, and now they are objecting to being forced into taking losses - to the banks' benefit - as a result of it. The government is forcing investors to take losses even though they were not responsible for the foreclosure process abuses that led to the banks' settlement with state and federal officials. "The banks are trying to pay these fines with our money," says Vincent Fiorillo (of DoubleLine). Chris Katopis, the executive director of the bondholder trade group, says it is considering its legal options, including filing a friend of the court amicus brief or suing servicers individually..."Banks are shifting their liability to first-lien investors that were innocent of robo-signing,".

 

American Banker: MBS Investors Cry Foul Over National Mortgage Settlement

The settlement does nothing to change the contractual pooling and servicing agreements between investors and mortgage servicers...

 

If a contract does not permit principal writedowns, the servicer cannot take them, according to an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development...

 

But if they have to take writedowns without getting paid by the banks, mortgage investors don't want banks to get credit for them...

 

Bondholders are especially concerned about writedowns from Bank of America, which has privately securitized more than $285 billion worth of mortgages originated by Countrywide Financial Corp. (B of A acquired Countrywide in 2008)...

 

The settlement must be approved by a federal district court, and "there is the possibility that some private investors could resist the settlement," Bordia wrote in his report...

 

"Even after court approval, an indiscriminate application of modifications to non-agency loans is likely to be met with legal challenges," he added. "The possibility of legal challenges from investors cannot be ruled out if indiscriminate mass modifications were to take place."...

 

"How can the government impose a benefit on servicers at the expense of the investor?" asks Walter Schmidt...

 

Bondholders also claim that during a Feb. 14 conference call with 90 investors, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan assured them that the number of private-label securities that could be modified under the settlement would be capped at 15%. The settlement did not include a cap, angering investors who claim the government favors banks over bondholders.”

 

While it is a very short-time-frame, we note mortgage spreads leaking modestly wider the last 2 days but still remain notably near their tightest levels (as we pointed out yesterday).