The mortgage finance lost years

The years following the housing crisis might as well be called the “the lost years” since so little has been done to fix lingering housing and mortgage finance issues.

Christopher Whalen with Institutional Risk Analytics noted as much in an interview with the Daily Ticker in which he criticized the much-discussed Volcker Rule as a solution that will do nothing to solve the nation’s most pressing mortgage finance issues. Whalen’s criticism arrives on the same day that the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the Volcker Rule.

Whalen says the Volcker Rule focuses on ending proprietary trading at the nation’s big banks, while doing nothing to address problems stemming from mortgage origination and the sales and marketing of residential mortgage-backed securities — two issues that played a key role in the mortgage market meltdown.

And when it comes to addressing RMBS issues and regaining investor confidence, Washington seems less forthcoming in discussing problems tied to RMBS and the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in overheating the market, Whalen noted.

The argument that RMBS issues are largely ignored as policymakers throw patchwork over other less, troublesome holes is certainly not new.

But those other more pressing issues related to securitization should not be ignored. After all much of the current RMBS litigation — including a $95 million case against JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bear Stearns and EMC — is tied back to underlying investors who are searching for clarity and information on the securities that they put their money behind.

A recent slew of investor legal actions is a clear sign that providers of capital want a transparent, ethical structure in RMBS before getting their feet wet again.

The next president and the next Congress will have to ensure confidence in this area.

A stable securitization structure that employs ethics and clarity is what is needed to bring capital and liquidity back into the home lending space. But creating stability takes work, time and focus. This means leaders who step up later this year after election time — whether new or old — need to have a housing cure that actually treats the real underlying symptoms of the four-year long disease.

Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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