Cratchit here… Well, it's 'that' time of the year once again… the Christmas holidays. For most people, in addition to being the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it's also a time to spend with loved ones… our family members and close friends… a time to share in the spirit of giving and to remember all of the goodness that exists in the world. Today, I'm the owner of my own business, Cratchit Vacation Travel, so every year I take a whole week off at Christmastime. Of course, not everyone can do that, and it wasn't always that way for me either, as you may recall. When I was working for my Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge, many years ago, he never would have allowed that. In fact, back then, my uncle was positively famous for hating Christmas and mostly because people didn't go to work on that day. "Christmas… bah humbug," he used to say. It sounds funny now, but back then it used to give me terrible fits and shakes when he would rail on about how he hated this time of the year. Lucky for me, in Uncle's later years everything changed for him as far as Christmas was concerned. It was the craziest thing… one Christmas Eve he changed 180 degrees and he never went back to hating Christmas for the rest of his life. Christmas actually became his favorite day of the year, if you can believe that. It was like someone put something in his drinking water. One Christmas Eve he went to bed a crotchety old man saying "Bah humbug," and the next morning you wouldn't have recognized him. He was jumping all around, telling everybody Merry Christmas, and even showed up at our house with the biggest Christmas Goose I'd ever seen. From that day forward, Uncle Ebenezer used to say that Christmas was the one day each year when nothing else should matter but spending time with loved ones… and he always did just that, and especially with little Tim, who wasn't doing at all well back then, until Uncle Ebenezer came by that Christmas morning. I always believed that if he hadn't come that day, we might have lost Tiny Tim one day. When Uncle passed away a few years ago, it was hardest on Tim, I think, and I know he misses his Uncle Ebenezer most on Christmas Day. Christmas is also the time when the bankers get to show off their magnanimous natures by announcing that they will delay foreclosures, trustee sales, and evictions of homeowners until after New Years' Day. They've been doing it every year, ever since the foreclosure crisis started a few years' back, so I wasn't the least bit surprised this year when, on December 3rd, Les Christie, a staff writer at CNN/Money.com wrote: "Several of the big mortgage players are playing Santa Claus again this year, saying they will not evict borrowers in default during the two weeks surrounding Christmas. Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA), the two government-controlled mortgage giants, are freezing all foreclosure evictions on mortgage loans they own or back from Dec. 20th through Jan.3rd." And Christie's story also quoted Anthony Renzi, Executive Vice President of single-family portfolio management at Freddie Mac, as saying: "If the property is occupied, our foreclosure attorneys will suspend the eviction to provide a greater measure of certainty to families during the holidays." And a spokesman for Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), by the name of Rick Simon, was also quoted in the story saying, said that the bank would still observe its usual holiday policy. "Bank of America's practice in recent years is to hold off on foreclosure sales or evictions from late December through New Year's Day…" And Christie also reported that Wells Fargo's (WFC, Fortune 500) holiday (foreclosure) freeze will run the same two week period as Fannie's and Freddie's. Playing Santa Claus my ass! That's what I have to say about that. Those bankers wouldn't know how to play Santa Claus if you fattened them up, stuck them in a red suit, and made them grow white beards. Hell, I'd bet you that even if you made a banker look like Santa Claus, he'd probably walk around saying "HO, HO, HOmeless!" Christie referred to the banker's holiday foreclosure freezes as being a "temporary reprieve" for homeowners but personally, I think it's a big crock of crap. It's not a "reprieve" for the poor homeowners losing homes… no, sir… it's a reprieve for the bankers, so that everyone won't see how they're kicking people out of their homes during the holidays, when they should be modifying those loans in order to help people stay in their homes. See, if the bankers kept on foreclosing through the holidays, that would make a fine news story for the folks at CNN and MSNBC, and they might send a camera crew to cover a few Christmas Eve evictions just for the drama and the tragedy of it all. You know how those people love to film train wrecks, it's like they say, "if it bleeds, it leads." So, the bankers realized that those news crews might just start talking with some of those homeowners being forced from their homes on a day like that, and those people would then have a chance to tell the rest of the country how they've been treated by their banks… how they should have gotten a loan modification but were denied… and without anyone even telling them why. And that wouldn't look so good for those bankers who are really a lot like my Uncle Scrooge used to be… before that one Christmas Eve when he totally changed forever. If you want to know the truth, I don't think the banks should be allowed to stop foreclosing and evicting for the holidays… we should pass a law that forces them to keep doing what they do every other day of the year… right through Christmas. I'd bet you that if we did have such a law on the books, you'd see a whole lot of loan modifications being granted in December, I'll tell you that. Bankers playing Santa by not foreclosing and evicting people for a few weeks around Christmas… what a bunch of shit that is… it's like when a foreign dignitary is coming to London, and they move all the homeless people living in the streets a few blocks away from the parade route, so they can pretend they're not there. Or, when you watch those newsreels of Adolf Hitler playing with his dog and smiling at the kiddies… yeah, right… like you're supposed to say… what a nice guy he appears to be. And just whom do they think they're fooling? How do you think the people feel… the ones that are losing their homes right after the holidays… do you think they're able to enjoy the holiday knowing that this will be the last Christmas they get to spend in their family home? I'd bet some don't even decorate or even celebrate… how could you with something like that hanging over their heads. And what do you suppose they tell their children when they tuck them in to wait for Santa to come? It breaks my heart to think about people losing homes unnecessarily at any time of the year, but no time is worse than Christmastime for something like that to happen. It would be one thing if there was no option, or if they really couldn't afford to stay there, but if you read the news lately, you know that's not the case for hundreds of thousands of folks. In fact, attorney Diane Thompson, who works for National Consumer Law Center has testified recently that she's represented hundreds of homeowners who were being foreclosed on that weren't even in default! And did you read Mandelman's column yesterday about Bank of America, Chase and others breaking into people's homes and stealing their belongings, including that woman's husband's ashes. The article was funny in some ways, that Mandelman always makes me laugh, but in other ways that article made me want to scream. Look, we now should all know that many, if not most, of the people losing their homes are only losing them because the servicer is involved. It's the servicers that are saying they won't modify the loans and proceeding with the foreclosures. And that's because the servicers make the most money when they service a delinquent loan for a while… and then foreclose on the homeowner. It's true… Professor Levitin from Georgetown University recently explained all that while he was testifying in congress. Want to know something else? I just learned that Citibank gets 25% of the trial payments if the loan ends up in foreclosure! Can you believe that? I don't know about the other banks, but I'd be willing to take a guess that what's good for the gander is good for the other ganders too. And servicers are the ones that have the LEAST to do with the loans in the first place. They don't own the loans, they only service them… and they get one quarter of one percent to service a prime loan, half a percent to service a prime loan… but one and one quarter percent for servicing a delinquent loan. So, you add on all the junk fees for foreclosing onto that and you'll see why that guy that used to work at Chase… the one that Mandelman interviewed a few months back when he wrote that article, "Inside Chase and the Perfect Foreclosure", said that Chase was in the foreclosure business, not the modification business. So, think about it… we've got the servicers… the companies that have the least interest in the loans in the first place, and make the most by foreclosing on loans, deciding on whether someone should get a loan modification? What kind of stupid and uniformed idea is that? I wish Obama would have told us that when they announced the plan back in February of 2009. Instead we had to spend a whole year trying to figure out why it was that everyone who called their bank directly to get their loan modified was being treated like shit before being foreclosed on and evicted, without ever even knowing why. The hysterical thing is how the servicers lied all the time, blaming it on the borrowers, saying it was their fault for not getting their paperwork in right or on time. That was all a bunch of B.S. You know how we know that now, right? Because Treasury just reported that more than half of the people turned down for HAMP ended up getting their loan modified by a servicer anyway, but using some sort of in-house program. But, guess what… a lawyer recently told me that he compared a HAMP modification to an in-house version from Well Fargo, and the in-house version was going to cost the homeowner roughly $180,000 more over the life of the loan, even though they looked similar on the surface. See… that's exactly the kind of crap my Uncle Ebenezer used to pull before he changed, that one Christmas Eve. Yep, the only people losing money and more are the homeowners and the investors that own the loans. The servicers are making a bloody fortune, and the banks are getting off easy too. I say it's time we all should write to our elected representatives and tell them we're wise to this game and we want the servicers taken out of the middle as far as loan modification decisions are concerned. And that there should be no more stopping foreclosures and evictions at Christmastime… because bankers aren't playing Santa, they're harming people, causing them to have the worst Christmas ever as they sit and think what's going to happen when the holidays are over. I hope all those people that are being delayed for the holiday, get every sale date postponed for as long as they can. File bankruptcy… that'll stop the sale date. Or hire a lawyer and ask him or her how to fight the bankers as long as possible. Maybe something will change… it sure can't remain like this forever. Well, Christmas Eve is almost here so I've got to run. I want to get to sleep early tonight, because last night I had the worst night's sleep ever. You wouldn't believe it, but I had the strangest dream about my Uncle Ebenezer and he was with his old partner, Jacob Marley, who I hadn't thought about in years. Well, they both appeared in my dream and they were rattling chains and howling in the most hair raising tones… and they kept yelling out these names that I wasn't familiar with over and over… and they were dancing about chanting that they were going to visit this group of people this year, AND EVERY YEAR on Christmas Eve. They were saying… Oooooo… Lloyd Blankfein… every year for as long as it takes…Oooooo… Kenny Lewis… every year for as long as it takes… Oooooo… Vikram Pandit… every year for as long as it takes… Oooooo… John Mack… every year for as long as it takes… Oooooo… John Stumpf….. every year for as long as it takes…Ooooo… Jamie Dimon… every year for as long as it takes… and were others mentioned too… and they went on and on… over and over. I awoke in a cold sweat, shaking like a leaf in high winds. I have no idea what they were talking about, and it was probably just the Chinese food I had for dinner, but it scared the living daylights out of me, and I was afraid to even try to sleep after that. So, Merry Christmas to everyone, and thank you to Mandelman for allowing me to guest post on Mandelman Matters… it's by far my favorite blog, right behind Yves Smith's and Matt Tiabbi's of course, but we don't have to tell Mandelman that… he's sensitive this time of year. And, God bless us… everyone. ~~~~~~ Bob Cratchit President & CEO CRATCHIT VACATION TRAVEL, INC. "Taking you places you never dreamed you'd go."
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