The Looming Foreclosure Crisis: As the Fed Runs Out of Bullets, Local Governments Are Stepping In

Mortgage debt overhang from the housing bust has meant lack of middle-class spending power and consumer demand, preventing the economy from growing. The problem might be fixed by a new approach from the Fed. But if the Fed won’t act, counties will, as seen in the latest developments on eminent domain and litigation over MERS.

Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts wrote on June 25th that real US GDP growth for the first quarter of 2014 was a negative 2.9%, off by 5.5% from the positive 2.6% predicted by economists. If the second quarter also shows a decline, the US will officially be in recession. That means not only fiscal policy (government deficit spending) but monetary policy (unprecedented quantitative easing) will have failed. The Federal Reserve is out of bullets.

Or is it? Perhaps it is just aiming at the wrong target. Continue reading


A flood of foreclosures in neighborhoods, cities and towns can cause everyone’s real estate equity to plunge. Some towns would like to step-in to protect their communities, but they can’t get the mortgage notes written down to affordable levels for contractual reasons. The solution: use eminent domain to claim the properties for the municipality, then renegotiate them on behalf of struggling homeowners.  Ellen talks with the pre-eminent legal mind behind the emerging eminent domain stratagem, Cornell professor Robert Hockett, whose idea has been catching on in towns across America, including some of the biggest.

Read more here.


The Stone that Brings Down Goliath? Richmond and Eminent Domain

In a nearly $13 billion settlement with the US Justice Department in November 2013, JPMorganChase admitted that it, along with every other large US bank, had engaged in mortgage fraud as a routine business practice, sowing the seeds of the mortgage meltdown. JPMorgan and other megabanks have now been caught in over a dozen major frauds, including LIBOR-rigging and bid-rigging; yet no prominent banker has gone to jail. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of all mortgages nationally remain underwater (meaning the balance owed exceeds the current value of the home), sapping homeowners’ budgets, the housing market and the economy. Since the banks, the courts and the federal government have failed to give adequate relief to homeowners, some cities are taking matters into their own hands.

Gayle McLaughlin, the bold mayor of Richmond, California, has gone where no woman dared go before, threatening to take underwater mortgages by eminent domain from Wall Street banks and renegotiate them on behalf of beleaguered homeowners. Continue reading