Revenge of the Organic Carbon Units?

Robosigner sued!

Emerging news that the US Federal Housing Finance Agency is suing various banks caught our eye.  The cases allege that the banks systematically failed to follow both market regulations and their own procedures in approving mortgages in the run up to the credit crunch.  The resulting ‘bad’ loans were then guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi-government agencies, and the FHFA is seeking to recover the billions the US tax payer lost.

The case has been rumbling for a while, with attention initially on how the banks foreclosed using the same inadequate approach, which we mentioned back in October 2010.   At that time we asked what was the purpose of management in such organisations?  Machines would be simpler to employ, less troublesome to manage. 

Now it would seem that the malaise was deeper, perhaps revealing a cynical disregard for the customer in the chase for short term advantage? If so the cynicism would seem to have been less than smart on the part of the banks’ Boards, as one of the customers they ‘turned over’ was a powerful government agency.  Such customers, backed with legal as well as market power, tend to hit back hard.   

Our premise still stands – management matters, and it is the Board that ultimately sets the standard.  Was this a sin of commission rather than omission?  It will be interesting to see the resolution of these cases, and the resulting impact on the regulation of financial markets and the banks.  

 Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation about helping your managers develop the competence and confidence to manage effectively.  Solutions that engage, motivate and fit around, rather than disrupt the business.

 (from October 2010) So, why use people?

The news that Wells Fargo management used ‘robo’ signers to approve mortgage foreclosures caught our eye*.  Also in the frame for similar practices are JP Morgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage (Ally Bank).  The Wells Fargo VP of Loan Documentation giving evidence in a Florida lawsuit said she only checked if her name and title were correct on the documents.  She also signed affadavits stating she had “personal knowledge of the facts regarding the sums of money which are due and owing to Wells Fargo”.  These were used in foreclosure proceeding.  This is gold for the lawyers who are challenging the bank foreclosures.

This information raises intriguing questions, not least what is the purpose of managers in such institutions? Does the process manage the manager or does the manager add some value by managing?  And even if the (automated?) process worked as designed (aka those affavdavits), then the fact that the lawyers are able to make hay with it, shows a management failure.  Was the organisational effort to deal with the historically challenging volume of foreclosures such that sight was lost of treating customers (and thus the market) with proper respect?  Where were the supervisory and audit functions in the organisations?

What we find most confusing of all is that if all that was required from management was a signature, why didn’t they use an automatic signature machine?  After all why pay people, and put up with all that unpredictability and emotion?

Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation about helping your managers develop the competence and confidence to manage effectively.  Solutions that engage, motivate and fit around, rather than disrupt the business.

* See www.ft.com 14/10/10

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply