As the foreclosure rate continues to climb, Senate Democrats are taking a second look at a failed proposal to allow the modification of troubled borrowers' mortgages in chapter 13, Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review reported today. At the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) called on the Senate to adopt the proposal he's been championing since 2007 that was defeated in the Spring of 2008 and then in the Senate earlier this year: allowing bankruptcy judges the power to cram down the mortgages of homeowners in chapter 13 bankruptcy. Subcommittee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) warned that failing to allow cramdowns this time around would exacerbate the economic downturn. Yet opponents of cramdowns, including Ranking Member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), argued that allowing cramdowns would create troubling consequences both for lenders and for future borrowers. ABI Resident Scholar Prof. Adam Levitin of Georgetown University Law countered that lenders wouldn't punish borrowers with higher prices as long as cramdowns didn't cause them to lose more than they would in a foreclosure. However, this isn't possible, he said, because bankruptcy law requires that creditors recover at least the same amount of their claims in a bankruptcy as they would in a liquidation or foreclosure. Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, said such efforts wrongly assume that the foreclosure crisis was caused by predatory lending practices that created so many subprime borrowers. Rather, he claims that the crisis was actually caused by the combination of falling home values and what he called "negative income shock," including job losses.
As all my loyal readers know, I am a big fan of mortgage cramdown legislation, as it allows owner occupied real estate to be maintained by the homeowner. While this creates a short term loss for the banks, it forces them to have their books reflect reality. Good Senator Durbin! Let's get this done.
Portions of this post were contributed by David Asmus, Esq. from the Hinshaw & Culbertson, St. Louis Office.