Thursday, April 17, 2014
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占领抵押贷款商

华盛顿——“占领华尔街”运动的参与者们没有说错——大银行的抵押贷款发起、集中和证券化行为是造成金融危机以及800万人失业的罪魁祸首,但他们从未得到应有的调查。但是,在纽约总检察长史树德(Eric Schneiderman)等人的努力下,美国已经掀起了一场关于总检察长与主要金融公司庭外和解的认真大讨论。

眼下,州官员、奥巴马政府和银行之间谈论的焦点是被曝光的抵押贷款偿付、收回抵押贷款偿还权以及驱逐屋主的问题。但主要银行被指还犯有违法行为,如有意欺骗借款人让他们误解自己实际应付的利率,同时向投资者虚假宣传据此产生的抵押贷款支持证券,从而诱导人们前来贷款。

如果这些指控是真的,那么涉案银行高管就得担心民事律师发现足以将他们送上刑事庭的证据了。于是,符合他们利益的做法自然是让证据永远不要进入法庭——也就是他们现在在做的事。

任何抵押贷款庭外和解的规模和结构都应该修复被控行为模式所造成的伤害。如今,许多美国人背上了太多的债务。大约1 000万笔抵押贷款被认为处于“资不抵债”状态(即房屋价值低于贷款数额)。此外,在房地产陷入萧条四年后,美国主要市场房价仍然在下跌。

如果这些贷款都是商业贷款,那么债权人可以考虑对其进行重组——即延长偿还期,通常还包括减记本金。但是,在美国住房抵押贷款市场,这么做并不普遍。银行肯定不愿意进行数百万次重组谈判,而且更重要的是,它们不愿意直面其贷款组合所隐含的损失。

结果,家庭只能削减支出、偿还债务。从某种程度上讲,这是信贷繁荣的自然后果。美国家庭的去杠杆化过程将持续很长一段时间。

决策者有三条应对方案。首先,他们可以静观其变——这也是共和党国会领袖的优先选项,最近他们写信要求美联储主席伯南克不要再进一步采取经济刺激措施了。

其次,他们可以继续依赖传统货币和财政政策将经济拖出不景气。这是奥巴马政府的优先选项,尽管效果甚微。

第三,他们可以采取直接减记资不抵债抵押贷款价值的替代方案。这样一来,消费者的资产负债表就能得到改善,从而直接刺激经济、创造就业岗位。

让我们从马丁·菲尔德斯坦(Martin Feldstein)的方案开始。他建议做一笔买卖:政府减记深度资不抵债抵押贷款的价值,损失由政府和银行分担;作为交换,借款人必须同意新贷款具有“完全追索权”。这意味着贷款人可以在借款人违约时收走后者的其他资产,而不仅仅是房子。

菲尔德斯坦方案的关键是银行必须同意;这是一种自愿而不是法律强制的债务重组。从原理上看,该方案对银行是有吸引力的,因为重组后的贷款违约可能性更小了。但在实践中,银行在抵押贷款重组业务上踯躇不前,不但没有雇佣发起所需规模所需要的人手,反而还在裁员。

据菲尔德斯坦测算,本金削减的一次性成本大约在3 500亿美元。当然,给定当前的财政环境,要从预算中抠出更多的资源是很难的。

但3 500亿美元大约只是整个金融部门在信贷繁荣期一个季度的利润,而在最近几个季度中,该部门总利润已经回到甚至超过了繁荣期水平。因此,如果全部减记成本都由银行承担,大多数银行充其量也就是损失了不到一年的利润——这样利润此前可是维持了好几年呢。

这些繁荣期利润毫无疑问被夸大了,因为它们未经风险调整。而当下行风险显露时,损失大多被社会化了,这也是美国公共债务在近几年出现飙升的主要原因。在如今的环境下,让股东和管理层来承担相对较小的数目完全是公平合理的。

当然,某些金融部门人士会威胁说,这将产生灾难性后果。事实上,银行股可能下跌,薪酬和奖金也完全可能被削减,至少在短期是如此。另一方面,合法地消除未来诉讼威胁的大规模和解将在大型贷款人(包括美国银行)头顶上制造出一片阴云,并给金融体系的其他部分造成巨大风险。

如果银行真的为其行为担负社会成本,那么账单将远远超过3 000—4 000亿美元。现实地估算,金融机构的不利法律风险总量超过了1万亿美元——特别是若能证明卖给投资者的“抵押贷款支持证券”背后并没有抵押贷款在支持(因为从来不曾有过适用的法律文档)的话。

和解还必须包括银行对支持改进美国破产法以便将抵押贷款纳入常规法庭程序的明确同意。如果“占领华尔街”运动告诉了我们什么,那就是,美国经济最需要解决的问题就是被债务压得喘不过气的家庭。

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  1. CommentedRobert Mullen


    A better analysis: There is no entity capable of deciding the value of houses or mortgages, or when they are "sufficiently underwater". Nor any one capable of deciding if the owner, the lender, or other circumstances caused the problem or who deserves to benefit from the solution.
    The best solution: The home owner has the option now of mailing in the keys -- they should determine if that is in their interest and do it, rather than throwing good money after bad. The government should allow them (via guarantees), on the same basis as anyone else, to get loans for new housing if they have enough income, when they have a down payment, and if they are a good risk (ignoring for this purpose the fact that they defaulted on their previous mortgage.)
    This will have the effect of putting more homes on the market, but also more buyers. The banks will be faced with well deserved losses on the loans they never should have made -- the more risky the loan, the bigger their loss. The homeowners will lose also, but in proportion to the excess size of the house they "bought" -- in short they may well wind up in a smaller house, or renting. The banks will have the opportunity to lend wisely to the new buyers in the market.
    Note this plan requires no voluntary action by the bankers, only the homeowners and the government need to act.
    The worthy public policy objective is to put folks in a home they can afford, if they can afford one. It should not be to keep everyone in the specific home they were in when the "music stopped". If most of the homeowners that are underwater mail in their keys, many will wind up in a very similar home across the street or down the block from the home they currently occupy.
    And the market will have cleared.

    The proposed transition to "full recourse loans" is a trick, a trap. It will be the final nail in the coffin for the middle class, ensuring that homeowners pay the full cost of the whole fiasco. If there is a movement to full-recourse, you can bet it will be followed by a long gradual deflation, squeezing every ounce of savings out of the middle class.

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