Real Estate “Flopping” The New Corporate Screw Job

The Daily Kos has the article Real Estate “Flopping” The New Corporate Screw Job.

I was reading the article, thinking there is nothing wrong with what the corporations are doing. This does not sound too different from what I proposed in my previous post in June 2011 Solution to The Housing Market Crash.

Then I read this quote of a quote in this most recent article that is the subject of this blog post.

In ‘flopping,’ a home is purchased by insiders at a steep discount, then immediately sold for a big profit.

Not only are home buyers being cheated out of the chance to buy a home at a reasonable price, but I suspect that the shareholders of the banks that are selling these houses at steep discounts are taking a licking too. What’s in it for the banks?  For the answer to that question read my previous post, The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One.  The title of that post comes from the same named book.  I just realized that the “owning” in the title is not about being a stock holder. It is about owning control of the management of the bank.  It is what the author of the book, William Black, calls “control fraud”.  This new scam is not about the specific items from the book that I chose to highlight in the previous post, but is about some new ways for the “owners” to rob the bank. You can think of this as the perfect example of what is wrong with the government accepting cash settlements from the bankers who perpetrated previous crimes instead of sending them to jail.  How many times must they be repeat offenders before we finally decide that they need to be in jail? Besides being the New Sheriff In Town, Elizabeth Warren could ride this issue all the way to the White House in 2016 if she were a mind to.

Well, this story may be worse than I thought.  I started to do a little research to if see I could prove that the Fed’s Quantitative Easing effort could be a loser in this fraud scheme, too. I found a Jun 10, 2010 Bloomberg story Banks Face Short-Sale Fraud as Home `Flopping’ Spreads.

By allowing broker price opinions, the Treasury exposes taxpayers to short-sale fraud after $49 billion of government bailouts for housing, Barofsky wrote to Congress. “As constituted now, the program permits home valuation, the key vulnerability point for a flopping scheme, without a true appraisal,” he wrote. “No program of this type and scale can be considered well designed without robust protections of taxpayer funds against the predation of criminals, particularly given the inconsistent treatment of home valuation.”

The Barofsky quoted above is Special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program Neil Barofsky.  So the TARP inspector general has known about this for over 3 years. I don’t know if the Fed’s buying of CDO’s (Collateralized Debt Obligations) existed three years ago when Barofsky made the $49 billion estimate of the loss to the government. The WikiPedia article Federal Reserve responses to the subprime crisis, uses the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance for its assertion that

The Federal Reserve created five programs to give assistance to AIG: . . . Maiden Lane III, a special purpose vehicle created to purchase collateralized debt obligations on which AIG Financial Products had written credit default swaps.

I’ll let the professional journalists dig into this further.  I have already suggested this to The Real News Network.

If you believe in “The greater fool” theory of investing, you might be interested in this quote of a quote that originated in The New York Times article Behind the Rise in House Prices, Wall Street Buyers. This was cited in The Daily Kos article.

Wall Street played a central role in the last housing boom by supplying easy — and, in retrospect, risky — mortgage financing. Now, investment companies like the Blackstone Group have swooped in, buying thousands of houses in the same areas where the financial crisis hit hardest.

Of course, The New York Times should have added “fraudulent” to the list of adjectives describing Wall Street’s role.

You might want to invest in the Blackstone Group, if you weren’t badly enough burned in the last boom and bust, or if you managed to get out just in time last time.

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