By Al Yoon
NEW YORK, April 12 (Reuters) – On March 17, 2009, a group of mortgage bond investors worried about the losses they could suffer as a result of U.S. foreclosure prevention plans asked top bankers to share the pain by taking some write-downs on $450 billion in home equity loans.
But the bankers said they would talk only after the investors first allowed modifications on their primary loans as prescribed under the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, according to a trader who attended the meeting at the American Securitization Forum in New York.
Thus began a year of frustration for the investors, such as asset manager BlackRock Inc, who claim their rights as primary mortgage holders have been trampled by the foreclosure program that let second-lien holders off the hook. Most agreed that the program, known as HAMP, was good policy, but balked at who sustained losses and when.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Scott Simon, a managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., in Newport Beach, California. “You’d think if you are first lien holder you’d be in first lien position.”
More than a year later, investors whose losses would be lessened if banks took write-downs on second-lien mortgages are getting some attention, after being stonewalled by banks and regulators, according to the trader who attended the meeting with bankers. The change comes as they are being asked to help restore private credit to the U.S. housing finance system, which is costing taxpayers a bundle.