All items from Credit Slips

Professor Bill Whitford of the University of Wisconsin will be an intellectual hero to many of the Credit Slips readers and contributors. Bill has done pathbreaking work in consumer bankruptcy law, consumer law, and corporate reorganizations. On October 24, the Temple Law Review will hold a symposium honoring Bill's career, "The (Un)Quiet Realist: Building and Reflecting on the Contributions of Bill Whitford." Speakers include current or past Credit Slips contributors Jean Braucher, Melissa Jacoby, Angie Littwin, Katie Porter, and me. The full agenda and more information can be found at the Temple Law Review web site. Attendees can earn up to five CLE credits (four substantive and one ethics).
When I first came into the legal academy, Bill was one of a small group of bankruptcy scholars getting out of their university offices and engaging with the world as it is. He is  a role model for me as an empirical scholar, and it is an honor to be asked to be part of this event.



Posted 2 weeks 5 days ago

Over the last couple years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has put together a useful series of reports regarding payday lending in the United States. The fourth installment was released on October 2. Its title is quite descriptive: "Fraud and Abuse Online: Harmful Practices in Internet Payday Lending". The report documents aggressive and illegal actions taken by online payday lenders, most prominently those lenders that are not regulated by all states: harassment, threats, unauthorized dissemination of personal information and accessing of checking accounts, and automated payments that do not reduce principal loan amounts, thereby initiating an automatic renewal of the loan(!). Storefront lenders engage in some of the same tactics, but online lenders' transgressions seem to be more egregious and more frequent.



Posted 2 weeks 6 days ago

How long will we be seeing signs like this in our communities?  Cash store smallerI refer specifically to the little sign in the store “Military Welcome,” which arises from sneaky loopholes that have been used for years to get around Military Lending Act (the “Act” or the MLA”), a bipartisan law passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President George W. Bush as a part of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act.  The law recognized that payday and other high cost loans interfere with military readiness and as a result, passed a rather uncontroversial 36 percent military APR, including all costs and fees. 36% period. End of story.



Posted 3 weeks 23 hours ago

At a hearing on September 29, Judge Griesa indicated that he would hold Argentina in contempt of court but deferred his ruling on what the sanction would be. He has now issued the sanctions order. Somewhat surprisingly, the order does not impose even a monetary fine. (Perhaps the judge is not eager to deal with Argentina's inevitable noncompliance?) Instead, the order simply declares that Argentina will remain in contempt until it (i) "reaffirms and confirms" BNY-Mellon as trustee and (2) terminates any local trustee appointed as part of the already-not-too-attractive plan to let investors swap into local bonds. The order concludes by noting that the court "will consider the imposition of sanctions upon further application by Plaintiffs."



Posted 3 weeks 1 day ago

The revelation that 76 million JPMorgan Chase consumer accounts were compromised by hacking should be scaring the heck out of us. The Chase hacking is a red flag that hacking poses a real systemic risk to our banking system, and a national security risk as well. Frankly, I find this stuff a lot scarier than either ISIS or our still largely unregulated shadow banking space.  
Consider this nightmare scenario:  what if the hackers had just zeroed out all of those 76 million Chase accounts and wipes out months of transaction history making it impossible to determine exactly how much money was in the accounts at the time they were zeroed out? The money wouldn't even have to be stolen.  Just the account records changed.  What would happen then? "Not to worry," you say, "Chase's equity will make things good.  Jamie's got a fortress balance sheet."  Perhaps.  But 76 million accounts could be an awful lot of money, rendering Chase undercapitalized.  And what if Chase's equity isn't enough?
"Relax," you say, "the accounts are FDIC insured." But the FDIC can only pay insurance on account balances it can verify. If the FDIC can't determine account balances it's going to be hard to pay consumers without serious disruption.



Posted 3 weeks 1 day ago

Former Credit Slips blogger Elizabeth Warren who also happens to be the senior senator from Massachusetts was a category on Jeopardy! last night. H/T to the WSJ's Bankruptcy Beat, which has a more complete story on the topic including the questions that were asked. None of the questions related to Credit Slips probably because they would have been too easy. Please let me hold on to that illusion.
None of the contestants could correctly give the full name of the agency of which Senator Warren was interim director, "the CFPB for short." Although she was commonly referred to as the "interim director," the title I remember her holding is "assistant to the president and special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury" (e.g., here and here). It's a trivial point -- which I suppose is the point of Jeopard! -- but was she ever formally the "interim director" of the CFPB?



Posted 3 weeks 2 days ago

Some thoughts on how much faith we should have in the debt markets, and whether they are actually markets at all, over at Dealb%k.



Posted 3 weeks 2 days ago

The CFPB entered into a Consent Order with Flagstar Bank regarding its default mortgage servicing practices. This order is really important. It's the first enforcement action of the CFPB's new servicing rules, and its "benching" remedy that prevents Flagstar from most default servicing until it demonstrates compliance shows that the Bureau is serious about cleaning out the Augean stables of servicing. (The Ocwen order had a much larger dollar figure attached, but was about pre-2014 conduct).
The details given in the consent order tell an all-too-common picture about mortgage servicing.  

In 2011, Flagstar had 13,000 active loss mitigation applications but only assigned 25 full-time employees and a third-party vendor in India to review them. For a time, it took the staff up to nine months to review a single application. In Flagstar’s loss mitigation call center, the average call wait time was 25 minutes and the average call abandonment rate was almost 50 percent. And Flagstar’s loss mitigation application backlog numbered well over a thousand. 

And we wonder why loss mitigation hasn't been more effective?



Posted 3 weeks 4 days ago

A long long time ago in this same galaxy, I wrote what may be Credit Slips' most popular post: What do bankruptcy mortgage servicing and phone sex in common? Today, I bring you a new comparison: bankruptcy mortgage servicing and ebola. At the outset, let me be very clear that ebola is a tragic health care crisis. I do not mean to minimize those deaths and illnesses with a comparison to mortgage servicing--although to be sure, poor mortgage servicing has tragic financial consequences.



Posted 4 weeks 3 days ago

IMG_4527Just back from European Law and Economics, where the big topics at the coffee breaks were the Scottish vote, until that was resolved, sort of, Argentina, which is widely seen as a self-created mess for the U.S. courts, and the Air France strike, which caused presenters and chairs to miss sessions at random throughout the conference.



Posted 4 weeks 4 days ago