Friday, October 10, 2008

Conservatives $25 Billion Mistake

In April 2006, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a new type of mortgage. A 40 year term would now be allowed with 0% down payment, insured by CMHC and its private competitors Genworth and AIG.

In an already heated housing market this drove up demand creating a bubble just waiting to burst. Some warned of the dangers of this. Here and here and here and here

In June 2008, Flaherty, having realized his mistake revised the decision by reducing the term to 35 years and 5% down payment. This comes into effect on October 15th, 2008. My question is what does Jim Flaherty have against the month of October.

How many 40 year mortgages did CMHC insure at 0% down? Wonder if its around $25 Billion worth? Or was that only the dollar value of the mortgages sold by CMHC's private competitor AIG, yes that AIG. And next week, after the election, we'll be buying out the rest of the high risk mortgages that the banks sold.

After all the political leaders complained loudly when the banks didn't immediately pass on the full 1/2% point drop in the prime lending rate, we see today there is some adjustment in that. Was the price tag for that half-hearted compliance equal to $25 Billion?

Previously, a home owner could get a 25 year term and usually at least 5% downpayment was required, anything less than 25% required mortgage insurance from CMHC or its private competitors.

I think Canadians deserve to know, before we go to the polls, just exactly how much of our tax dollars will be flowing to the banks and what assets are involved. The first $25 Billion is for the highest risk mortgages. Also the banks should be opening up the books so we can see that in fact they are obeying the rules about capitalization. That includes all the deals that are off the books.

Last spring, at least $4 Billion was used to shore up two unnamed Canadian banks but we just found out about this last week when the information slipped from beneath the reins of the PMO. How many other transactions are there that we don't know about.

By the way, this past week RBC was fined $9.8 million (US) and was also forced to buy back $850 million by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for having engaged in fraudulent marketing practises with those ultra safe auction-based securities. This wasn't the first time for RBC to pay a fine to the SEC either. Why in 2006 they paid a fine of $1.5 million for interfering in auctions by bidding for a firm's proprietary account to prevent fails auctions. Maybe Canada's banks are as squeaky clean as Harper and Flaherty would have us believe.

Is this how Harper gets tough on crime?

Funny, (not haha, funny) how Harper and Flaherty is now saying governments can't interfere with banks. Yet, when they were trying to force an  election last spring, there was an awful lot of noise coming from Flaherty about getting banks to reduce or eliminate ATM fees.

Today we heard that the US will start to nationalize it's banks. It seems likely that this $25 Billion may be only the beginning of bailouts for us too.

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