Saturday, October 09, 2010
Momentum builds for nationwide freeze on foreclosures
Senior Obama administration officials said Friday that a nationwide moratorium on foreclosure sales may be inevitable, despite their grave reservations about the impact a broad freeze would have on the nation's housing market and economic recovery.
Their remarks were made as pressure for a nationwide moratorium mounted Friday when Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, halted foreclosure sales in all 50 states. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is locked in a tight reelection campaign, called on other major lenders to follow suit.
The White House has so far resisted joining the election-season calls for action but convened two interagency meetings this week to discuss reports that banks filed fraudulent documents to evict delinquent borrowers and to deal with questions about whether banks are seizing properties without having clear ownership of the mortgages.
One meeting was made up mostly of groups that regulate the housing industry, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Treasury Department and the White House. The other, which involved the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. attorneys from across the country, was focused on the question of whether financial fraud was committed.
With foreclosed properties comprising one in every four homes sold in the United States, the spreading moratorium could disrupt real estate deals in progress, slow down the process of clearing the backlog of troubled home loans and prolong the economic recovery, analysts said.
A freeze would also strike at the financial sector, just two years after it suffered one of the worst crises in its history. One government official who has been in discussions with several big financial firms said the banks are bracing themselves for a wave of lawsuits from homeowners who are fighting to keep their homes and from investors who had bought mortgage loans on Wall Street. On Friday, while the Dow Jones industrial average crossed 11,000, most major bank stocks fell.