Ten Years of Evidence: Was Fraud a Force in the Financlial Crisis?
John M. Griffin
- Journal of Economic Literature (Forthcoming)
This article synthesizes the large literature regarding the role of various players in Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) securitization at the center of the 2008-2009 U.S. housing and financial crisis. Underwriting banks facilitated wide-scale mortgage fraud by knowingly misreporting key loan characteristics underlying mortgage-backed securities. Under the cover of complexity, credit rating agencies catered to investment banks by issuing increasingly inflated ratings on both RMBS and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). Originators who engaged in mortgage fraud gained market share, as did CDO managers who catered to underwriters by accepting the lowest-quality MBS collateral. Appraisal targeting and inflated appraisals were the norm. RMBS and CDO prices indicate that the marginal AAA investor was unaware of pervasive mortgage fraud and ratings inflation, but these factors were strongly related to future deal performance. The supply of fraudulent credit was not uniform, but clustered in certain geographic regions and zip codes. As these dubious originators extended credit to those who could not afford the loans, the credit expansion led to house price booms and subsequent crashes in these zip codes. Overall, a consistent narrative based on substantial research indicates that conflicts of interest, misreporting, and fraud were focal features of the financial crisis.
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