Where Have You Gone, Hernando de Soto?
posted by Frank Pasquale
Remember Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s “bribe list” pricing—”$50,000 for every $1 million in appropriated funds he would obtain?” There are now allegations that certain firms offered to “fabricat[e] documents out of whole cloth” to lubricate the foreclosure machine. For a mere $95, one could “recreate entire collateral file,” which is all “the documents the trustee (or the custodian as an agent of the trustee) needs to have pursuant to its obligations under the pooling and servicing agreement on behalf of the mortgage backed security holder [including] the original of the note (the borrower IOU), copies of the mortgage (the lien on the property), the securitization agreement, and title insurance.” Yves Smith draws some interesting implications:
Amar Bhide, in a 1994 Harvard Business Review article, said the US capital markets were the deepest and most liquid in major part because they were recognized around the world as being the fairest and best policed. As remarkable as it may seem now, his statement was seem as an obvious truth back then. In a mere decade, we managed to allow a “free markets” ideology on steroids to gut investor and borrower protection. The result is a train wreck in US residential mortgage securities, the biggest asset class in the world. The problems are too widespread for the authorities to pretend they don’t exist, and there is no obvious way to put this Humpty Dumpty back together.
Smith’s global perspective reminds me of two items. I once heard that, in the wake of Bush v. Gore, a representative of the OAS began a meeting by saying something along the lines of: “We are now to hear from a fragile democracy, one that has suffered severe strains but which looks capable of attaining legitimate procedures for governance. Would the United States representative please come to the dais?” And policymakers who prescribe the titling work of Hernando de Soto for Latin America might want to apply it a bit more carefully at home.