Thursday morning, NPR’s On Point broadcast a shocking story of government betrayal of homeowners. The politics of this will be fascinating, if the mainstream media are willing to touch this hot-potato. Why? Because Edward DeMarco — orchestrator of the latest expansion of these predatory entities — was an early appointment of Barack Obama. When President Obama later attempted to remove him, his effort was blocked by the GOP. Barack Obama should certainly be asked to explain this appointment. The GOP should be asked about the morality of preserving a political embarrassment for a presidency they’ve vowed to destroy against the interests of millions of Americans. It appears that the GOP again prefers to destroy the lives of millions of Americans rather than allow Barack Obama to correct the problem (whatever its source).
This morning, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a follow-up offering Edward DeMarco a chance to respond. His response?
Nothing immoral went on, Edward DeMarco says. The agency’s multibillion-dollar bets against homeowners being able to refinance were “ordinary business transactions.”
Saying he is “completely puzzled by the notion that there was something immoral that went on here,” the man at the top of the agency that regulates Freddie Mac has explained why he believes the taxpayer-owned mortgage company did nothing wrong when one of its arms, as NPR and ProPublica have reported, “placed multibillion-dollar bets against American homeowners being able to refinance to cheaper mortgages.”
A joint report from NPR and ProPublica earlier this week reveals outrageous and shocking (even to jaded cynics like me) behavior of Freddie Mac: the agency is simultaneously making it far more difficult for struggling homeowners to refinance high-interest mortgages, while profiting handsomely from hedge funds based on those mortgages.
From the NPR piece:
Simply put, “Freddie Mac prevented households from being able to take advantage of today’s mortgage rates — and then bet on it,” says Alan Boyce, a former bond trader who has been involved in efforts to push for more refinancing of home loans.
Plus, in 2010 and 2011, Freddie didn’t just hold a simple pile of loans. Instead, for hundreds of thousands of home loans, it used Wall Street alchemy to chop these loans up into complicated securities — slices of which were sold in financial markets.
This hypothetical example may help explain what happens:
1) Freddie Mac takes, say, $1 billion worth of home loans and packages them. With the help of a Wall Street banker, it can then slice off parts of the bundle to create different investment securities, some riskier than others. The slices could be set up so that, say, $900 million worth are relatively safe investments, based upon homeowners paying the principal on their mortgages.
2) But the one remaining slice, worth $100 million, is the riskiest part. Freddie retains that slice, known as an “inverse floater,” which receives all of the interest payments from the entire $1 billion worth of mortgages.
3) That riskiest investment pays out a lucrative stream of interest payments. But Freddie’s slice also has all the so-called “pre-payment risk” associated with that $1 billion worth of loans. So if lots of people “pre-pay” their old loans and refinance into new, cheaper ones, then Freddie Mac starts to lose money. If people can’t refinance, then Freddie wins because it continues to receive that flow of older, higher interest payments.
If the homeowner is unable to refinance, the Freddie Mac portfolio managers win, Simon says. “And if the homeowner can refinance, they lose.”
Oh, and by the way, the individual Freddie Mac managers who put this obscenity together received multimillion-dollar bonuses.
This should be a big story. It exemplifies the structural bias against the 99% that OccupyEverything has been highlighting.