Before we use to rely on automated underwriting systems and credit scores we had humans who would carefully underwrite mortgage loan files. During the caveman human underwriter days, loan originators and loan processors knew that underwriters could make or break a file. An underwriter had god-like power to grant or deny the American dream. They had minds like a detective and long-term memory capabilities of an autistic child who can recount the entire screenplay of The Incredible Journey along with all the background noises. Underwriters knew which loan originators had a history of submitting fake gift downpayment letters because they would all sit and chainsmoke together in an un-vented room for 9 hour straight comparing sob stories from loan originators whose files were denied. After work, they would saunter off to network with other underwriters from other banks at a local bar or Mortgage Banker’s Association meeting, same/same. Any fraud that a loan originator tried to pull off was easily sniffed out, with the LO retreating for a while and eventually leaving the company due to the ice cold group shun effect. There were no stated income loans. Two years of tax returns, a P&L and a balance sheet were brought in to underwriting and a few days later, an underwriter would hand the LO a sheet of paper telling the LO what number to use as income for qualifying purposes. If the newly self-employed could not qualify, that person found a co-signer, usually a parent.
Yes, I was an underwriter back in the mid 1980s, and I was the youngest underwriter on staff. I was recruited from processing because I use to submit my files already underwritten along with the conditions for loan approval. What was apparent to me even as a 23 year old was that if my boss had to report to the same person that was in charge of sales and production, every file would have been approved. But she reported to someone else. It was that person’s job to make sure we were making good credit decisions. The goals of production and risk are in harmony, if you take a long-term look at the possible consequences of making credit decisions that are too far out of balance either way. Each part of a mortgage company needs the other part to maximize good consequences for all.
[photopress:stated_income_1.jpg,thumb,alignleft]Recent Mortgage Fraud Developments
The outlook for mortgage fraud across the United States is grim. I started this series at the end of October with background research conducted by the FBI that concluded that the most damaging mortgage fraud consisted of many people in the industry working together; fraud for profit.
As of today, I am no longer convinced that fraud for profit is the most damaging kind of mortgage fraud.
Today I believe if we put all the out-of-work underwriters back to work and opened up all the loan files in the defaulting tranches of subprime, Alt-A, and prime loans, we would find the same kind of problems that Fitch, the ratings agency, found when they re-undewrote a small sample of 45 early default loans from the 2006 vintage. Now granted, this is a small sample. However, after working within corporations most of my adult life, I also know that the public really never hears how bad things are. The name of the report is “The Impact of Poor Underwriting Practices and Fraud in Subprime Residential Mortgage Backed Securities