Thursday, October 23, 2008

Homeowner Forclosure Bailout

The federal government is working on a loan-guarantee plan that could help many homeowners escape foreclosure, a banking regulator told Congress Thursday. At the same time former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the financial crisis will get worse before it gets better. Accused of contributing to the meltdown, but denying that it was his fault, Greenspan told a House panel the crisis left him -- an unabashed free-market advocate -- in a "state of shocked disbelief."

Some critics have blamed Greenspan for contributing to the problem by leaving interest rates too low for too long and for failing to regulate risky banking practices such as the issuance of subprime mortgage. But he put the blame on soaring mortgage foreclosures on overeager investors who did not properly take into account the threats that would be posed once home prices stopped surging upward.

Greenspan called the global financial crisis is a "once in a century credit tsunami" that policymakers did not anticipate. He said that he and others who believed lending institutions would do a good job of protecting their shareholders are in a "state of shocked disbelief." And Greenspan also blamed the problems on heavy demand for securities backed by subprime mortgages by investors who did not worry that the boom in home prices might come to a crashing halt.

Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., told the Senate Banking Committee that the government can do more to help tens of thousands of home borrowers avert foreclosure. She suggested the government set standards for modifying mortgages into more affordable loans and providing loan guarantees to banks and other mortgage services that meet them.

"Loan guarantees could be used as an incentive for servicers to modify loans," Bair said. "By doing so, unaffordable loans could be converted into loans that are sustainable over the long term." The FDIC is working "closely and creatively" with the Treasury Department on such a plan, she said. (excerpts from M Crutsinger and M Gordon, AP Writers)

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