Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bailed-Out Banksters Nix Giving Homeowners Foreclosure Assistance; Prefer Directing Sneaky Efforts, Loot To More Profitable Tax Lien Investing Instead

In Pima County, Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reports:

  • Banks that took bailout money were supposed to use part of the taxpayer-provided cash infusion to help customers avoid foreclosure, but instead, many of them are buying up struggling homeowners' tax debt.

  • The tax liens earn banks up to 16 percent interest, and if homeowners don't repay their debt within three years the banks can foreclose on their homes. Since the bailout in 2008, major banks have bought nearly 6,000 tax liens in Pima County that total at least $15.8 million.


  • Many banks dabbled in delinquent tax liens before the bailout, but they have ramped up their purchases many-fold since the housing market collapse and bailout money became available.

  • In the two years before the bailout, banks bought about $3.9 million in tax liens at Pima County's annual tax auction. At the last two auctions they bought $10.3 million. Additionally, they bought $4.1 million in liens outside the auction since the bailout.


  • Trusts and limited liability corporations owned by three banks - JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and BankAtlantic Bancorp - have been the most active in buying tax-lien certificates in Pima County since the bailouts. Together they bought nearly $11 million of tax-lien certificates in the three years since the bailout.

  • In addition, Wells Fargo and US Bank set up private trusts for clients - likely institutional clients such as hedge funds - to buy another $5 million in tax liens here since 2009.

  • BankAtlantic, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase would not comment for this story. Wells Fargo and US Bank said they bought the liens through a trust set up with money from a third party - so they didn't actually buy the liens, don't own them, didn't make the investment decisions to purchase them and don't profit from them.

  • They do, however, get a fee for managing the trust, which allows their clients to securitize and sell the tax liens to other investors, similar to how banks securitized and sold mortgages during the housing boom.


  • Bank purchases of tax liens have ramped up quietly. Other bidders know banks are involved but don't know exactly who they all are, said Bill Schumacher, who has bought nearly $1 million in tax liens in Pima County since 2009.

  • Most of the liens are purchased through trusts or LLCs that have to be traced through paperwork to banks. Bidders at the auction don't identify who they represent. Schumacher suspects banks really don't want people to know they are buying tax liens. If customer knew they were buying up tax liens after they took bailout money, banks could suffer a public relations hit, he said.


  • Because of the secrecy surrounding bank purchases, bank liens may exceed the nearly $16 million the Star has verified as coming from banks - either from direct purchases or trusts set up for clients.

For more, see Bailed-out banks snap up tax liens (Banks were bailed out by taxpayers, but instead of helping homeowners avoid foreclosure, banks have instead bought up tax liens, sometimes on the same street where they foreclosed on homes).

No comments: