Reggie's Blog & Proprietary Research

Reggie's Blog & Proprietary Research (1277)


From Bloomberg: Germany Seeks IMF Role for Greece in Reversal, CDU Lawmaker Meister Says

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Greece should turn to the International Monetary Fund if it needs aid, the chief finance spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said, in a reversal that signals a rift with European leadersJean-Claude TrichetJean-Claude Juncker and Nicolas Sarkozy.

“We have to think about who has the instruments to push for Greece to restore its capital-markets access” if ultimately needed, Michael Meister, a lawmaker with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said today in an interview in Berlin. “Nobody apart from the IMF has these instruments.” Attempting a Greek rescue “without the IMF would be a very daring experiment.”

Daring indeed! As my subscribers know, there has been a lot of creativity in coming up with those "austerity" plans (subscribers, see File IconGreece Public Finances Projections). I wouldn't bet the farm on their ability to accomplish their stated goals. For those that don't have a paid subscription, reference my Greek Tragedy in prose: "Greek Crisis Is Over, Region Safe", Prodi Says - I say Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Don't forget to notice the optimism...

I have warned my readers about following myths and legends versus reality and facts several times in the past, particularly as it applies to Goldman Sachs and what I have coined "Name Brand Investing". Very recent developments from Senator Kaufman of Delaware will be putting the spit-shined patina of Wall Street's most powerful bank to the test. Here is a link to the speech that the esteemed Senator from Delaware (yes, the most corporate friendly state in this country). A few excerpts to liven up your morning...

Mr. President, last Thursday, the bankruptcy examiner for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. released a 2,200 page report about the demise of the firm which included riveting detail on the firm’s accounting practices.  That report has put in sharp relief what many of us have expected all along:  that fraud and potential criminal conduct were at the heart of the financial crisis.

...  Only further investigation will determine whether the individuals involved can be indicted and convicted of criminal wrongdoing.

There is an ancient Greek legend describing the education of the common man Damocles. You see, Damocles exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority, Dionysius (the current ruler) was truly fortunate. Thus, Dionysius offered to switch places with him for a day, so Damocles could taste first hand that fortune which he savored so fervently. Later that night during a lavish banquet Damocles indeed

 
 Earlier installments of the Reggie Middleton's Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis

  1. The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one.
  2. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? - illustrates the potential for the domino effect
  3. The Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: If I Were to Short Any Country, What Country Would That Be.. - attempts to illustrate the highly interdependent weaknesses in Europe's sovereign nations can effect even the perceived "stronger" nations.
  4. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries
  5. The Depression is Already Here for Some Members of Europe, and It Just Might Be Contagious!

  6. The Beginning of the Endgame is Coming???

  7. I Think It's Confirmed, Greece Will Be the First Domino to Fall

  8. Smoking Swap Guns Are Beginning to Litter EuroLand, Sovereign Debt Buyer Beware!
  9. Financial Contagion vs. Economic Contagion: Does the Market Underestimate the Effects of the Latter?

 

did savor being waited upon like a king. Only at the end of the meal did he look up and notice a hand sharpened sword hanging directly above his head by a single strand of horse-hair. Damocles immediately lost all taste for the amenities of royalty, pomp and circumstance and asked leave of the tyrant, saying he no longer wanted to be so "fortunate" [adapted from Wikipedia].[1][4]

Little did Damocles realize that what he experienced was of value, significant value. He simply failed to recognize the value as we has blinded by the fair maidens who served him hand and foot.  The moral to this BoomBustBlog telling of the Sword of Damocles is that: "When one sits on the Throne, the true value of the sword is not that it falls, but rather, that it hangs." Recent history has given weight to this moral as Greece has fed high on the hog for nearly a decade, while being totally oblivious to the value held within that single strand of horse hair, protecting it. Till this day, that strand, although dwindling, has yet to snap. 

On that note, we have this headline from Bloomberg: Greek Crisis Is Over, Rest of Region Safe, Prodi Says
"The worst of Greece’s financial crisis is over and other European nations won’t follow in its path, said former European Commission President Romano Prodi.
“For Greece, the problem is completely over,” said Prodi, who was also Italian prime minister, in an interview in Shanghai today. “I don’t see any other case now in Europe. I don’t think there is any reason to think the euro system will collapse or will suffer greatly because of Greece.”" 

Reggie says "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire". In all seriousness, while I don't truly believe Mr. Prodi is lying, he is also obviously ignoring the facts as they currently exist, whether purposefully or in error. Let's walk through a few excerpts from the most recent addition to the Pan-European Sovereign debt crisis. BoomBustBlog subscribers can download the full15 page analysis here, which contains more than enought evidence to throw serious doubt on the ability of Greece to come anywhere near their stated goals: pdf  Greece Public Finances Projections 2010-03-15 11:33:27 694.35 Kb/. The report also makes clear why Germany is so hesitant to contribute funds to a Greek bailout.

 

The Austerity Package, in a Nutshell

 

The revenue measures include increasing tax rates, reducing tax evasion and some one-off measures while the expenditure measures consist of salary reduction, freezes in hiring and salary hikes as well as cutting other public sector expenditures. According to the Stabilityand Growth Program, January 2010, the government is aiming to reduce its fiscal deficit from 12.7% of GDP in 2009 to 8.7% in 2010. However, if the impact of the additional measures that were estimated at 2.5% of GDP is also added, the fiscal deficit is expected to come down to 6.2% of GDP in 2010, based on government's estimates. The government further envisages additional proceeds from the sale of stakes in some of the government-owned entities as well as proceeds from the payback of financial assistance provided to the Greek banks, which will be used to reduce the massive government debt of around 113% of GDP in 2009. However, there is strong evidence to support the assertion that the budgeted impact of these measures is grossly overstated, since a) The Greek government's base casescenario for the economy is overly optimistic when compared with analystexpectations, and  b) the dynamics of the announced measures shall lower the total projectedimpact.

Let's get something straight right off the bat. We all know there is a certain level of fraud sleight of hand in the financial industry. I have called many banks insolvent in the past. Some have pooh-poohed these proclamations, while others have looked in wonder, saying "How the hell did he know that?"

The list above is a small, relevant sampling of at least dozens of similar calls. Trust me, dear reader, what some may see as divine premonition is nothing of the sort. It is definitely not a sign of superior ability, insider info, or heavenly intellect. I would love to consider myself a hyper-intellectual, but alas, it just ain't so and I'm not going to lie to you. The truth of the matter is I sniffed these incongruencies out because  2+2 never did equal 46, and it probably never will either. An objective look at each and every one of these situations shows that none of them added up. In each case, there was someone (or a lot of people) trying to get you to believe that 2=2=46.xxx. They justified it with theses that they alleged were too complicated for the average man to understand (and in business, if that is true, then it is probably just too complicated to work in the long run as well). They pronounced bold new eras, stating "This time is different", "There is a new math" (as if there was something wrong with the old math), etc. and so on and associated bullshit.

From Bloomberg: Detroit Sells $250 Million Without Recent Disclosure Filings

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Detroit, the largest U.S. city whose debt is rated below investment grade, will ask investors today to buy $250 million of its debt without having filed annual financial reports on time for five years.

The city, which warned investors in its preliminary official statement of the possibility of filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, is providing a June 30, 2008, financial statement, its most recent, to investors. A fiscal 2009 report is expected to be complete by May 31, said city spokesman Dan Lijana, in an e-mail.

...

The municipality is selling the same week that state and local governments are scheduled to bring more than $11 billion of long-term securities to market. The largest deals include $2 billion from California and $696 million from the District of Columbia.

Goldman Sachs

Detroit is selling $250 million of bonds through investment banks led byGoldman Sachs Group Inc. to help cover budget deficits expected to total $280 million this year. The deal will probably appeal to investors seeking high-yield municipal debt, predicted Ciccarone, precluding the city from a market with tax- exempt yields near three-month lows.

The city lost its investment-grade ratings as automobile makers in Michigan began cutting jobs and the tax revenue declined, which led to an expanding budget gap covered by short- term borrowing. The new bonds will spread repayment of the deficit debt across a longer period.

Detroit general obligations maturing in 2024 traded yesterday at a yield of 7.56 percent, according to Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board data. That compares with yields of 3.36 percent to 3.5 percent for top-rated 14-year municipal debt yesterday, according to Municipal Market Advisors Inc.

...

Detroit also disclosed there’s no precedent for how its state aid payments would be handled in the event of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing because there’s never been a local instance. “The lack of precedent in Michigan makes the risks associated with such a filing difficult to assess,” the preliminary offering statement said.

Financial Crisis

While the city is still in a financial crisis, “insolvency isn’t on the horizon or on the agenda,” said Mayor Dave Bing, in a prepared statement provided by Lijana  [Reggie Comment: Of course, which is why the warning is there in the prospectus!]. A request to make finance officials available for comment was declined by Lijana.

...

Today in the news: China Inflation, Production Accelerate, Adding Pressure for Stimulus Exit

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- China’s inflation reached a 16- month high, industrial output climbed and new loans exceeded forecasts, adding to the case for the government to pare back stimulus measures.

Consumer prices rose 2.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said in Beijing today, compared with the 2.5 percent median estimate of 29 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Seasonal factors stemming from a weeklong holiday may have boosted prices. Production rose 20.7 percent in the first two months of 2010, the most in more than five years.

Contrary to many, not only do I believe China is in the throws of a credit driven asset bubble, but its touted safeguards point the way to drastic correction.

China huge foreign reserves: Not a savior for the country if the asset bubble bursts

The concerns highlighted by Michael Pettis (a professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management,  "Never short a country with $2 trillion in reserves?") are telling, particularly that huge foreign exchange reserves are not a sure shot solution for preventing China from a future financial crisis. I would like to amplify the message contained therein, since the news coming out of China reinforces the fact that it is really not "different this time" so emphatically.

The Author states:

 "...Let us leave aside that the PBoC's reported reserves are a lot more than $2 trillion, and that if correctly accounted they would be pretty close to $3 trillion.  China's foreign reserves are certainly huge. They add up to an amount equal to about 5-6 % of global gross domestic product.

But they are not unprecedented. Twice before in history a country has, under similar circumstances, run up foreign reserves of the same magnitude.

The first time occurred in the late 1920s when, after a decade of record-beating trade and capital account surpluses, the United States had accumulated what John Maynard Keynes worriedly described as "all the bullion in the world". At the time, total reserves accumulated by the US were more than 5-6% of global GDP...

The second time occurred in the late 1980s, when it was Japan's turn to combine huge trade surpluses, along with more moderate surpluses on the capital account, to accumulate a stockpile of foreign reserves only a little less than the equivalent of 5-6% of global GDP.   By the late 1980s, Japan's accumulation of reserves drew the sort of same breathless description - much of it incorrect, of course - that China's does today.

Needless to say, and in sharp rebuttal to Friedman, both previous cases turned out badly for long investors and brilliantly for anyone dumb enough to have gone short. During the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, US stock markets lost more than 80 per cent of their value, real estate prices collapsed, and the US economy contracted in real terms by an astonishing 30-40 per cent before recovering in the 1940s.

Japan's subsequent experience was economically less violent in the short term, but even costlier over the long term. During the period following its astonishing accumulation of central bank reserves, its stock market also lost more than 80 per cent of its value, real estate prices collapsed, and economic growth was virtually non-existent for two decades.

Reserves of course are not useless as an enhancer of financial stability, but their use is for very specific forms of instability.  Having large amounts of reserves relative to external claims protects countries from external debt crises and from currency crises."

The key term here is "external". China does not face an external debt concerns, as the country's foreign claim as per BIS (Bank for International Settlement) stood at only $278.6 billion at the end of September 2009 (which is only 5.3% of the country's 2010 expected GDP as per IMF). However, China's domestic debt currently remains at an uncomforting level (as we will see in our discussion below)

"The risks that China faces today (and the US in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s) is of excessive domestic liquidity having fueled asset and capacity bubbles, the latter requiring the uninterrupted ability of foreign countries to absorb via large and growing trade deficits.  These risks include an explosion in domestic government debt directly and contingently through the banking system... "

This risk is visible in the recent finance ministry announcement to nullify all guarantees local governments for loans taken by their financing vehicles, and its plan to issue rules banning all future guarantees by local governments.

If local government debt that China's local governments have been raising through off-balance sheet (and similar) investment vehicles to circumvent direct borrowing regulations -  and which is not counted in official calculations, is included in the total debt - then the country's debt could rise to 39.838 trillion Yuan or $5.8 trillion. This puts China in similar debt standing with many of the PIIGS, being that its accounting for 96% of GDP, much higher in comparison to the IMF's estimate of 22% which excludes local-government liabilities, in 2010 based upon research by Northwestern University's Professor Victor Shih, who estimates China's local- government outstanding debt at the end of 2009 at 11.429 trillion Yuan.  

This puts China 4th in line, behind Italy, Belgium and Greece in terms of gross debt to GDP!

"... And reserves are almost totally useless in protecting these economies from the risks they face (and, no, no, no, reserves cannot be used to recapitalize the banks - only domestic government borrowing or direct or hidden taxes on the household sector can be used to recapitalize the banks). In fact, it was the very process of generating massive reserves that created the risks which subsequently devastated the US and Japan. Both countries had accumulated reserves over a decade during which they experienced sharply undervalued currencies, rapid urbanization, and rapid growth in worker productivity (sound familiar?). These three factors led to large and rising trade surpluses which, when combined with capital inflows seeking advantage of the rapid economic growth, forced a too-quick expansion of domestic money and credit."

The above case is most accurate  in regards to China, where the accumulated reserves have come from preventing Yuan appreciation, rapid urbanization and rising worker productivity (which remains one of the key drivers for the country's exports). Thus, if we go by historical precedence, a huge financial reserve for China does not safeguard the country against a financial crisis.

These similar concerns are being supported by other analysts and economists. Trend forecaster Gerald Celente believes that the depression is global and a contraction across the entire planet cannot be avoided, and that includes China.

Economist Harry Dent holds a similar view, recently saying that, "China will see their bubble collapse strongly when the U.S.-led stimulus program fails due to rising defaults and foreclosures later in 2010, at the same time that the world is looking for China to pull it out of this global downturn."

As suggested above by Michael Pettis, though foreign reserves can be used for very specific forms of instability, there is one way in which China can use its reserves to tackle the current problem of rising domestic debt, that is by converting its foreign currency denominated assets (which is primarily dollar for China) to Yuan.

However, this would lead to appreciation of Yuan against the USD. With China being an export-driven economy, this is a measure of very last resort. 

But eventually, China will have to appreciate Yuan as it is facing considerable international pressure from its trading partners, more importantly, it looks like the only way to ease strains on the country's fast growing economy. We feel that this will not be a voluntary move (China faces new pressure to let currency rise).

 

Subscribers should reference the following related topics/documents:

I am in the process of finishing up the Sovereign Debt Crisis series with a massive global model of the interconnected relationships between sovereign nations. In the building of this model the team and I came to the conclusion that many pundits are truly underestimating the lose-lose situation that the Eurozone, CEE and the UK are in. I have went to lengths to demonstrate the interconnectedness of banks and the risk of global financial contagion that they pose. See this excerpt from "The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis"

Home grown credit risks look to come back home to roost. I am actually shocked the following development didn't get more traction in the mains stream media. The recent announcement by the Chinese finance ministry to nullify all guarantees for local governments for loans taken by their financing vehicles, and its plan to issue rules banning all future guarantees by local governments (see Bloomberg article), fuels (even further) our concerns about credit risks on such loans.

The primary concern is that most of these were non-recourse loans to provinces, municipalities and counties through shell companies, known as Urban Development Investment Corporations (UDIC). Some went to fund projects backed by assets, such as commercial real estate, others to projects with future cash flows such as subways and toll roads. Still others are social in nature and backed only by an implicit guarantee of the City/Provincial Investment Holding Corporation (CIHC).

 This post should be taken in context of the discussion had regarding regarding the prospects of the highly levered Russian energy company. Subscribers please see Mechel (MTLR) Mechel (MTLR) 2010-02-26 18:32:58 366.23 Kb and
Mechel (MTLR) Overview, pt2 Mechel (MTLR) Overview, pt2 2010-02-28 06:09:51 532.89 Kb

The China Macro Discussion 2-4-10 is also quite relevant.

 And the most concerning part of these loans primarily includes the estimated 3,000 billion Yuan ($450billion) of local infrastructure loans extended in 2009, which represents 30% of the record new bank lending last year.

  • Most UDIC loans have sparse local equity and limited cash flow prospects for repayment. For 2009, local governments and CIHCs have been able to meet interest payment gaps with healthy land sales, which totaled 1,600 billion Yuan in 2009, as well as central government transfers.
  • However, at the end of 2009, the UDIC liability is estimated at close to 6,000 billion Yuan or 14% of the outstanding loan base. And a 30% default rate could in effect wipe out the paid-in capital of top banks such as China Construction Bank and Bank of China.

According to Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, during the National People's Congress, "while ‘many' local financing vehicles have the ability to repay, two types cause concern. One uses land as collateral, while the other can't fully repay borrowing", which means that for such loans the local governments may become liable, leading to ‘fiscal risks' for the government.

Monday, 08 March 2010 18:00

The Financial Times' Banker on Bonuses

Written by

The Financial Times has published an Op-Ed piece I penned on bonuses in the banking industry. Enjoy!

A bank employee recently asked me: "As a trader, my bonus is derived directly from my profit and loss, which is accrued over the quarter and kept in a separate account. It does not go into the firm's bottom line and then back out to me. Also, like most traders, I accrue 2% of my gains in a loss provision account in case I have a major write-down in the year. My bonus is 10% of my profit for the year. If I make $50m for the year my bonus is $5m. What does my bonus have to do with the mortgage-backed securities [MBS] trader who is sitting on losses? Did I or did I not show a profit of $40m to the firm's bottom line?"

 Main Street is absolutely flabbergasted that bankers do not understand the core issues of this bonus question. Allow me to clearly outline the problem and propose a solution. Assuming this trader works for a prominent US bank that received a bailout, he is not entitled to a $5m bonus if he made $50m for the year. Why not? Because he generated that 10% return from taxpayer capital, not firm capital. For example, Goldman Sachs would have had the drawdown from purgatory had it not been rescued from a $30bn credit default swap deal with AIG.

Let's assume AIG would have negotiated a 40% payout to Goldman Sachs, which is realistic given that litigation with an insolvent company that had many more contingent and direct claims would probably have resulted in a lower net receipt to Goldman. This alone would have resulted in a hole of about $7.8bn for the bank.


 Two months ago I pointed out an anomaly in JP Morgan's "blowout" quarterly earnings release - Reggie Middleton on JP Morgan's "Blowout" Q4-09 Results. Let's reminisce...

Warranties of representation, and forced repurchase of loans

JP Morgan has increased its reserves with regards to repurchase of sold securities but the information surround these actions are very limited as the company does not separately report the repurchase reserves created to meet contingencies. However, the Company's income from mortgage servicing was severely impacted by increase in repurchase reserves. Mortgage production revenue was negative $192 million against negative $70 million in 3Q09 and positive $62 million in 4Q08.

Counterparties who are accruing losses from bad loans, (ex. monoline insurers such as Ambac and MBIA, see A Super Scary Halloween Tale of 104 Basis Points Pt I & II, by Reggie Middleton circa November 2007,) are stepping up their aggression in pushing loans that appear to breach certain warranties or smack of fraud. I expect this activity to pick up significantly, and those banks that made significant use of brokers and third parties to place mortgages will be at material risk - much more so than the primarily direct writers. I'll give you two guesses at which two banks are suspect. If you need a hint, take a look at who is increasing reserves for repurchases! JP Morgan and their not so profitable acquisition, WaMu! 

http://boombustblog.com/images/stories/regional_banks/32bustedbanks/thumbnails/thumb_image020.png

As I said, losses should be ramping up on the mortgage sector. Notice the trend of housing prices after the onset of government bubble blowing: If Anybody Bothered to Take a Close Look at the Latest Housing Numbers...

PNC Bank and Wells Fargo are in very similar situations regarding acquiring stinky loan portfolios. I suggest subscribers review the latest forensic reports on each company to refresh as the companies report Q4 2009 earnings. Unlike JPM, these banks do not have the investment banking and trading fees of significance (albeit decreasing significance) to fall back on as a cushion to consumer and mortgage credit losses.

Well, it looks as if I was onto something. From Bloomberg:

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac may force lenders includingBank of America Corp.JPMorgan Chase & Co.Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. to buy back $21 billion of home loans this year as part of a crackdown on faulty mortgages.

 That’s the estimate of Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Chris Kotowski, who says U.S. banks could suffer losses of $7 billion this year when those loans are returned and get marked down to their true value. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both controlled by the U.S. government, stuck the four biggest U.S. banks with losses of about $5 billion on buybacks in 2009, according to company filings made in the past two weeks.

The surge shows lenders are still paying the price for lax standards three years after mortgage markets collapsed under record defaults. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are looking for more faulty loans to return after suffering $202 billion of losses since 2007, and banks may have to go along, since the two U.S.- owned firms now buy at least 70 percent of new mortgages.

...

Freddie Mac forced lenders to buy back $4.1 billion of mortgages last year, almost triple the amount in 2008, according to a Feb. 26 filing. As of Dec. 31, Freddie Mac had another $4 billion outstanding loan-purchase demands that lenders hadn’t met, according to the filing. Fannie Mae didn’t disclose the amount of its loan-repurchase demands. Both firms were seized by the government in 2008 to stave off their collapse.

....

The government’s efforts might be counterproductive, since the Treasury and Federal Reserve are trying to help banks heal, FBR’s Miller said. The banks have to buy back the loans at par, and then take an impairment, because borrowers usually have stopped paying and the price of the underlying homehas plunged. JPMorgan said in a presentation last month that it loses about 50 cents on the dollar for every loan it has to buy back.

Striking a Balance

“It’s a fine line you’re walking, because the government’s trying to recapitalize the banks, not put them in bankruptcy, and then here’s Fannie and Freddie putting more pressure on the banks through these buybacks,” FBR’s Miller said. “If it becomes too big of an issue, the banks are going to complain to Congress, and they’re going to stop it.” [Of, course! Let the taxpayer eat the losses borne from our purposefully sloppy underwriting]

Bank of America recorded a $1.9 billion “warranties expense” for past and future buybacks of loans that weren’t properly written, seven times the 2008 amount, the bank said in a Feb. 26 filing. A spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America, Scott Silvestri, declined to comment.

JPMorgan, based in New York, recorded $1.6 billion of costs in 2009 from repurchases, including $500 million of losses on repurchased loans and $1 billion to increase reserves for future losses, according to a Feb. 24 filing.

“It’s become a very meaningful issue, and it will continue to be a meaningful issue for the next couple of years,” Charlie Scharf, JPMorgan’s head of retail banking, said at a Feb. 26 investor conference. He declined to say when the repurchase demands might peak.

...

“I can’t forecast the rates at which they’re going to continue,” she said. Her division lost $3.84 billion last year, as the bank overall posted a $6.28 billion profit. “The volume is increasing.”

Wells Fargo, ranked No. 1 among U.S. home lenders last year, bought back $1.3 billion of loans in 2009, triple the year-earlier amount, according to a Feb. 26 filing. The San Francisco-based bank recorded $927 million of costs last year associated with repurchases and estimated future losses.

...

Citigroup increased its repurchase reserve sixfold to $482 million, because of increased “trends in requests by investors for loan-documentation packages to be reviewed,” according to a Feb. 26 filing.

“The request for loan documentation packages is an early indicator of a potential claim,” New York-based Citigroup said.

...

Banks that sell mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have to provide “representations and warranties” assuring that the loans conformed to the agencies’ standards. With more loans going bad, the agencies are demanding that banks turn over loan files, so they can scour the records for missing documentation, inaccurate data and fraud.

...

The most common include inflated appraisals or falsely stated incomes in the loan applications, said Larry Platt, a Washington-based partner at law firm K&L Gates LLP who specializes in mortgage-purchase agreements. The government agencies hire their own reviewers who go back and compare the appraisals with prices from historical home sales, he said.

“They may do a drive-by for a visual inspection,” he said.

Wells Fargo said three-fourths of its repurchase requests came from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. While investors may demand repurchase at any time, most demands occur within three years of the loan date, Wells Fargo said.

The mortgage firms are looking at every loan more than 90 days past due and “asking us basically to give them all the documentation to show that it was properly underwritten,” JPMorgan’s Scharf said. “We then go through a process with them that takes a period of time, and literally it’s every loan, loan-by-loan, and have the discussion on whether or not we actually should buy the loan back.”

...

Mortgage repurchases may crimp bank earnings through 2011, Oppenheimer’s Kotowski said. That’s because the worst mortgages -- those underwritten in 2007 -- are just now coming under the heaviest scrutiny, he said.

...

“The worst of the stress is the 2007 vintages, though 2006 and 2005 weren’t a whole lot better and 2008 wasn’t much better,” Kotowski said.

Next week, the Mortgage Bankers Association is holding a workshop in the Dallas area that promises to help banks “survive the buyback deluge” and “build up your repertoire of lender defenses.” According to the MBA’s Web site, the workshop is sold out.