I’ve been following this for a while and writing about it on NewGeography.com since March – not all mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are actually backed by mortgages. So when the homeowner goes into bankruptcy, there’s no way for the MBS holder to prove a lien on the house and the judge awards the bondholder bupkus. In April, a bankruptcy judge in California wrote that as many as one-third of all MBS didn’t have mortgages. No “M” in the “BS,” as I like to put it!
Well, this story just gets better and better. It turns out that even when the MBS has an actual mortgage underneath it, the same mortgage is backing more than one security. Last week I talked to Matt Taibbi, who wrote in Rolling Stone magazine (The Great American Bubble Machine) that 58 percent of an MBS issued by Goldman Sachs had nothing but a list of zip codes where the mortgages should have been. He told me about a lawyer in Florida who has a list of cases where two MBS holders showed up at the bankruptcy proceedings, both claiming that they owned the same mortgage. You can expect to read more on that here as the story develops.
Then it gets worse! Gretchen Morgenson reported in the New York Times on Sunday that there are about 60 million mortgages registered with the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) to keep track of who owns which loans and which MBS. Problem was that MERS, created by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the mortgage industry, thought they were too good to have to register liens against land at the county level – real estate 101 for any sober realtor. The Kansas Supreme Court has now ruled that changes in mortgage ownership registered with MERS – and not registered with the local land authority – have no legal standing.
Don’t forget – MBS are the junk that Treasury Secretary Geithner wants purchase with tax-payer dollars; and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke committed $1.25 trillion of freshly-printed dollars to buy up out of the marketplace this year. Here’s the math made easy – the median house costs $177,000, figure an 80% mortgage, times 60 million mortgages: it looks like $8.5 trillion worth of mortgages could have no real estate underneath them! If the repo man comes knocking on your door, remember these four words: Show Me The Paper!