Saturday, October 23, 2010

Residential mortgage market meltdown: the Halloween sequel

The first part of this story involved lenders issuing mortgages without adequate underwriting, producing a lot of non-performing loans. When those loans were packaged and sold as securities, financial markets realized that lots of paper bags filled with excrement were ablaze on their doorstep. That largely prompted the financial market meltdown in 2008 from which the economy is still struggling to recover.

Just in time for Halloween comes the sequel in this financial horror story. As this New York Times article points out, the devil is in trying to unwind these bad debts and repossess the underlying properties. No easy feat considering that those stinky sacks of crap passed through a lot of hands, making it very difficult to sort out the individual notes in each bag.

Update 10/29: American Public Media's Marketplace radio program did a segment on today's show on the difficulty matching the notes in these troubled mortgage backed securities to the actual properties securing them, effectively rendering these securities worthless "zombie bonds" and setting the stage for litigation brought by understandably unhappy investors. Check out Marketplace's story here accompanied by lots of Halloween screams and howls.

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