David Dayen

David Dayen is a writer based in Los Angeles, California.

Recent Articles

Off Register

County-level officials take on big banks over irregularities in records that cost localities millions.

State and federal regulators have yet to stop mortgage-foreclosure abuses and exact punishment on the banks responsible for them. A slap on the wrist for 14 of the largest mortgage firms, a still fruitless effort by state attorneys general to reach a settlement with banks, and superficial investigations into the extent of the abuses have done little to answer questions about the proliferation of mortgage fraud. Without that knowledge, regulators are at a disadvantage in arriving at an equitable solution. Enter the most unlikely players in this whole mess: unassuming elected county officials known as registers of deeds. Whenever a mortgage gets transferred from one owner to another or a home falls into foreclosure, documents of the transaction get filed at the county register's office. Much of the truth about systemic document fraud is sitting in these local offices. Until now, virtually no register of deeds had bothered to take a look. But Jeff Thigpen, the register of deeds in...

A Foreclosure Problem Congress Couldn't Ignore

After a new report showed banks were improperly foreclosing on members of the military, the companies are scrambling to fix the problems and camo-wash their images.

Iraq veteran and U.S. Paralympic alpine skier Heath Calhoun, 30, walks past the new home that is being built for his family by the veterans group, Homes For Our Troops, and members of his community. (AP Photo/Kristin M. Hall)
Last week, the mortgage servicing arm of JPMorgan Chase reached an unusual settlement in a class action lawsuit, acknowledging it had charged illegally high interest rates and wrongfully foreclosed on 6,000 homeowners across the country. JPMorgan agreed to give $12 million to the individuals and $15 million to a fund for additional damages, on top of $6 million already promised for these particular violations. So had one of the major corporate forces behind the foreclosure crisis finally come to terms with its criminal activities and done right by the customers it defrauded? Hardly. Last week's settlement, and similar ones by other banks, relate only to a very specific type of foreclosure fraud: violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Banks are hoping that by compensating members of the military for improper foreclosures, they can boost their public image and avoid responsibility for the broader foreclosure crisis and the truckload of violations committed against civilian...

A Slap on the Wrist for Mortgage Fraud

A new enforcement order from federal regulators basically leaves it up to banks to monitor for themselves how they process mortgages.

(Flickr/lewisha1990)
On Wednesday, three federal regulators -- the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency -- released an enforcement order against 14 of the nation's largest banks and two third-party service providers for persistent irregularities and outright fraud in the way they process mortgages. These regulators are, respectively, the gang that missed the housing bubble, American International Group's overseer (whose colossal lapses caused it to be disbanded in last year's financial-regulatory law), and an entity most recently headed by a former bank lobbyist. The product of their deliberations, then, is no surprise: a toothless federal consent decree that essentially lets the offending banks off the hook and puts them in charge of their own prosecution. And yet, paradoxically, this weak consent decree could be the best chance for accountability in the mess that banks have made of the housing market. It certainly wouldn't appear that way...

Why Democrats Lost the Budget Fight

It may be tough to counter Republicans' uncompromising strategy on the budget, but Democrats sowed their own defeat long ago.

(Rex Features via AP Images)
This week, congressional negotiators will either reach an agreement on a continuing resolution for the 2011 budget or force the government to shut down. Even at a time when unemployment remains at an elevated 8.8 percent and a number of global concerns (the Japanese earthquake disaster, the European debt crisis, state budget cuts, and the depressed housing market) threaten the nascent recovery, Republicans will most likely succeed in cutting an additional $23 billion to the budget. Including the $10 billion already slashed in the two stopgap funding measures that were passed earlier this year, that brings the total to $33 billion, about the same level that House Republican leaders proposed before their most conservative members forced them to try to cut even deeper. Republicans have played the "bad cop, insane cop" strategy well, staking out a maximalist position and then compromising back to the level of cuts they always wanted. There are plenty of liberals willing to criticize...

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