Homeowners opt to flee instead of fight as loan modifications start to lose luster

Even when HAMP works, it doesn’t:

Recently, Airan-Pace secured a modification for a Miami Beach client that shrank his monthly payment from $3,700 to $1,600. But it was only a reduction in interest rate — allowed by the Home Affordable Modification Program to go as low as 2 percent.
“I called him in and he said, ‘I’m not signing this,’ ” Airan-Pace recalled.
He owed $470,000 on a property worth less than half that.

Homeowners opt to flee instead of fight as loan modifications start to lose luster

The Trouble With Debit Cards

The NY Times discusses the problems caused by rewards earning credit/debit cards for merchants and consumers alike. Visa, and to a lesser extent Mastercard, come off looking like health insurance companies. Entities who don’t add significant value to the economy, but manage to skim huge profits and act as a burden anyway. One solution:

Life might be simpler and more efficient if retailers could levy a surcharge that covers their costs to accept cards and let consumers figure out whether to pay it. But the card companies don’t allow that, and Congress hasn’t yet forced their hand, though this is now how things work in Australia (where some retailers charge excessive fees, alas).

And from a few days earlier, here is the Times talking about why the fees are so high.

The banks have used interchange fees as a growing profit center and to pay for cardholder perks like rewards programs. Interchange revenue has increased to $45 billion today, from $20 billion in 2002, driven in part by the surge in debit card use.

The Trouble With Debit Cards

Strategic Default

I missed this NYTimes piece by Roger Lowenstein discussing how incongruous it is for big banks to be the main cheerleaders for the idea that people have a moral imperative to continue paying mortgages when their homes are underwater. This concept seems perilously close to a tipping point that would have disastrous results for the economy. What would the banks do then? Lowenstein, by the way, wrote the great, “Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management”, which is as good as, “Liar’s Poker” at helping to explain the genesis of this entire mess.

Think of private-equity firms that close a factory — essentially deciding that the company is worth more dead than alive. Or the New York Yankees and their World Series M.V.P. Hideki Matsui, who parted company as soon as the cheering stopped. Or money-losing hedge-fund managers: rather than try to earn back their investors’ lost capital, they start new funds so they can rake in fresh incentives. Sam Zell, a billionaire, let the Tribune Company, which he had previously acquired, file for bankruptcy. Indeed, the owners of any company that defaults on bonds and chooses to let the company fail rather than invest more capital in it are practicing “strategic default.” Banks signal their complicity with this ethos when they send new credit cards to people who failed to stay current on old ones.

Strategic Default

Govermental Dreams

Emanuel Derman dreams:

I had a fantasy in which the Fed and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) switched roles.

If a bank failed at 9 a.m. one morning and shut its doors, the TSA would announce that all banks henceforth begin their business day at 10 a.m.

And, if a terrorist managed to get on board a plane between Stockholm and Washington, the Fed would increase the number of flights between the cities.

Via Felix Salmon

Govermental Dreams