Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Banks and Loan Buybacks

The WSJ reports today on the battle banks are facing over potential loan buybacks. Banks face the prospect of a new round of losses from loans they originated right before the credit markets collapsed. While originating and securitizing loans as fast as they could to fuel the bubble machine, some banks forgot to do a few basic things, like make sure the borrowers had income, for example. So they just filled out loan docs and made up the info that didn't fit normal underwriting standards. While it was easy to just shovel the loan off and forget about it, Fannie and Freddie, at the behest of their regulator the FHFA, are stepping up efforts to recoup losses on delinquent loans if they find any violations of "reps and warranties" (i.e. lies lies and more lies on loan docs.)

Last month, the effort to claw back loan losses was stepped up when FHFA broadened its probe to include private label, or non-agency, MBS. The FHFA sent out subpoenas to 64 issuers of MBS and other parties to probe for potential loan repurchases. Even the Fed has stated it may make repurchase claims after reviewing some of the dogsh-, I mean "collateral", it inherited from Bear and AIG.

What does this mean? More losses for banks and more pummeling of MBS securities. Who is this going to affect the most? The analyst quoted in the WSJ article, Chris Gamaitoni of Compass Point Research & Trading, believes losses at Bank of America might hit $21.8 billion for the bank. Losses at Wells and JP Morgan are estimated to be a mere $6 billion or so. The article does not mention how much he believes non-agency losses might be. In any event, the banks are not going down without a fight, as it pays to spread the losses out for as many years as they can. The irony is if they would've spent as much time and effort underwriting the mortgages to begin with, they wouldn't be in this pickle.

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