Mortgage Market Deregulation and Equity Stripping Under Sanction of Law

Source: Vincent Dilorenzo, St. John’s Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-0146

From the abstract:
Who is to blame for the large mortgage market losses borne by consumers, communities, the financial services industry and others? This paper explores government’s responsibility. It explores whether the decision to deregulate the mortgage market to a degree that permitted both unsafe and unfair mortgage practices was the decision of Congress or the federal regulatory agencies. Part one of this paper explores Congress’ viewpoint toward deregulation of the mortgage market. It differentiates two types of deregulation: (a) lifting of statutory requirements and substituting regulatory constraints, and (b) lifting of all government mandates and substituting a preference for market forces to police abusive practices. This paper examines Congress’ actions and motivations over a thirty year period and initially concludes that Congress embraced the former view and not the latter. This view was consistently embraced in the period 1982 to 1994 to address unsafe banking practices and unfair banking practices. Unfortunately, Congress then provided mixed signals regarding its deregulation viewpoint in legislative enactments in 1994 when faced with unfair banking practices. This permitted regulatory agencies to continue to pursue a deregulatory agenda even when faced with evidence of abusive lending practices.

Part two of this paper explores the viewpoint of the federal regulatory agencies toward deregulation of the mortgage market. It examines the actions and viewpoints of the federal banking regulators in the last three decades. Two conclusions emerge. First, the agencies preferred a free market approach and implemented such an approach whenever statutes provided the discretion to do so. Second, the regulatory agencies embraced a decision making model that relied on predictions of net societal benefits as the determinant of a decision to intervene in the mortgage markets. Such a viewpoint led the agencies to typically shun government intervention. That decision led to equity stripping for over a decade, especially in low-income communities, more equity stripping in recent years as lax lending practices led to defaults and foreclosures, and even more in the coming year as foreclosures multiply.

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