The Financial Tsunami: Sub-Prime Mortgage Debt is but the Tip of the Iceberg

Part 1: Deutsche Bank’s painful lesson                 

Even experienced banker friends tell me that they think the worst of the US banking troubles are over and that things are slowly getting back to normal. What is lacking in their rosy optimism is the realization of the scale of the ongoing deterioration in credit markets globally, centered in the American asset-backed securities market, and especially in the market for CDO’s—Collateralized Debt Obligations and CMO’s—Collateralized Mortgage Obligations. By now every serious reader has heard the term “It’s a crisis in Sub-Prime US home mortgage debt.” What almost no one I know understands is that the Sub-Prime problem is but the tip of a colossal iceberg that is in a slow meltdown. I offer one recent example to illustrate my point that the “Financial Tsunami” is only beginning.

Deutsche Bank got a hard shock a few days ago when a judge in the state of Ohio in the USA made a ruling that the bank had no legal right to foreclose on 14 homes whose owners had failed to keep current in their monthly mortgage payments. Now this might sound like small beer for Deutsche Bank, one of the world’s largest banks with over €1.1 trillion (Billionen) in assets worldwide. As Hilmar Kopper used to say, “peanuts.” It’s not at all peanuts, however, for the Anglo-Saxon banking world and its European allies like Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Barclays Bank, HSBC or others. Why?

A US Federal Judge, C.A. Boyko in Federal District Court in Cleveland Ohio ruled to dismiss a claim by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company. DB’s US subsidiary was seeking to take possession of 14 homes from Cleveland residents living in them, in order to claim the assets.

Here comes the hair in the soup. The Judge asked DB to show documents proving legal title to the 14 homes. DB could not. All DB attorneys could show was a document showing only an “intent to convey the rights in the mortgages.” They could not produce the actual mortgage, the heart of Western property rights since the Magna Charta of not longer.

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