Friday, June 20, 2008

Updates - Zimbabwe / Housing (Updated)

1. Zimbabwe:

This blogger commented on the situation in Zimbabwe in “Can it be?’ (April 2nd) with follow-ups in “News from this week” (April 19th, #2); “Updates” (May 10th #1); “How stupid can one be? (May 31st #7); and “Updates” (June 12th #2). The second round of elections are a week from today, June 27,th and the intimidation by the supports of the egomaniacal Mugabe continue full bore…

Zimbabwe's voters told: choose Mugabe or you face a bullet
“Only God can take away the power he has given me…” (French link)

Updated June 22nd: Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) announced that he is pulling out of Friday's presidential election run-off ...

Mugabe rival quits race
Tsvangirai pulls out of 'sham' Zimbabwe election
Zimbabwe poll: Key complaints

2. Housing:

This blogger also commented on the mortgage crisis in "Housing Stories" (April 5th) and "Housing Stories II" (May 6th). On June 19th The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation announced “…today a national takedown of mortgage fraud schemes, the culmination of substantial coordinated efforts during the last three and a half months to identify, arrest and prosecute mortgage fraud violators through the United States. Operation Malicious Mortgage highlights the strong enforcement response undertaken by the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners to combat the threat mortgage fraud poses to the U.S. housing industry and worldwide credit markets.”  

This blogger has been following the various housing-related stories via his local media (newspapers and TV), magazines, and on the web, looking for examples of the families “tricked” and “defrauded” into buying houses they could not afford, with very limited luck in finding any good examples. Presumably there are many out there, given that so many parties (“housing advocates”, politicians of all stripes, “community activists”, labor unions, etc.) keep insisting that there are all these victims out there who are losing their houses through absolutely no fault of their own. Finally, we should have some good examples, given this “operation.”

Unfortunately, having read in the region of fifty to sixty plus articles on “Operation Malicious Mortgage” this blogger couldn’t really tell if there is much “there” there. Half the articles focused on the Bear Stearns arrests although those really had nothing to do with this topic (being the garden variety “investment fund managers talking up their fund even though the fundamentals are going the wrong way”-type scam, the only connection to the mortgage crisis being that the underlying investment vehicle was subprime mortgages). Other mortgage fraud examples involved scams related to fleecing homeowners already in crisis (the bottomfeeders attempting to take advantage of folks in distress), etc. 

This blogger will keep an open mind on the subject but as of this moment is unpersuaded by the sob stories he has run across, and is still of the opinion that in cases where buyers purchased houses significantly more expensive than they could afford (via fraudulent representations of salary, etc.), the buyer should also be prosecuted for mortgage fraud along with the agents, loan originators, etc. 

Finally, some of the “victims” of the housing meltdown are showing some creativity in gaming the system, buying new homes and walking away from the old ones, thereby showing their true colors and that they are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Housing Stories
Housing Stories II

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