Thursday, October 10, 2013

10/10/2013: Prof Honohan is correct on 'strategic defaults'... but...

It is good to see Prof Honohan making a substantive and strong statement on the issue of 'strategic' mortgages arrears, contrasting the current 'debate' with some reasoned commentary:
http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/patrick-honohan-some-mortgage-holders-not-paying-up-29649978.html

Prof. Honohan is correct - there are borrowers who are attempting to game the system. This is rational and expected. And often it is abusive. Prof. Honohan is also correct in pointing out that Ireland's environment for insolvency and bankruptcy resolution is different from the US, making comparisons to the US data and evidence incomplete at best.

However, Prof. Honohan is not correct in solely placing the blame for the insolvencies crisis on the shoulders of borrowers. Irish State and banks are to share in responsibility for this crisis as well by:

  1. Banks - due to failing to properly price risks in issuing loans. Banks are paid to price these risks (this is what they collect the lending margins for) and they have not done their work in properly selling loans to some/many households.
  2. State - due to failure to properly supervise loans risk pricing in (1) above and due to failure to protect borrowers from occasionally excessively aggressive loans origination practices of the banks.
  3. Banks - due to failure to secure sustainable funding for loans origination, leading to excessive reliance on short-term borrowings and thus increased exposure to funding risks. These risks, once materialised, have been in part loaded onto the shoulders of borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages, in some cases potentially precipitating and in other exacerbating the extent of the crisis.
  4. State - due to failure to properly regulate and supervise banks risk taking activities in funding markets.
None of the points 1-4 are liability of the borrowers. All of the points 1-4 are contributors to the crisis to some extent. 

There is co-shared responsibility by the State and the Banks and this responsibility must translate into liability to aid homeowners in distress. Such assistance can and should take form of cost-efficient and effective solutions. Unfortunately, current discussion does not even begin tackling this issue and Prof Honohan's comment today is not helping the process either

Note: my recent Sunday Times column on strategic defaults issue is here:
My full position on strategic defaults and related matters of foreclosures is here:
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