One of Taibbi's main argument seems to be that banks have been suggesting that homeowners stop paying so that their loans can be modified, and then when the homeowners stop paying they are foreclosed upon. Of course, the fact that these people need a modification suggests that they are going to default anyway.
Thanks to Seeking Alpha and Ellen Browns' "Homeowners’ Rebellion: Could 62 Million Homes Be Foreclosure-Proof?", I had heard about this issue in August, a couple months earlier than when it hit mainstream media in full force.
Google Trends "foreclosure" in 2010
When I initially heard about the whole foreclosure issue, I figured that ultimately these foreclosures should go through because these people are not paying their mortgages. But after reading Matt's article I'm not so sure. I've been working as a regulator of a financial services industry for a state government for the past couple years. Sloppy paperwork doesn't surprise me. I see sloppy paperwork all the time, and I'm not just talking about companies not complying with arcane regulations that only I would really know - I'm talking about basic statistical work that the companies should know a lot better than I do, or carefully worded legal contract language that is entirely ambiguous. And while we manage to avoid pandering to the industry's whims, my impression is that we are perhaps more the exception than the rule. We have a statute which prohibits companies from knowingly providing misleading or false documents, but we generally don't bring it up. Like the judges in the case, we bend over backwards to let companies fix their mistakes, but in our case the mistakes just waste our time. In this case the mistakes cost people their homes.
I think the perpatrators of this sloppiness should be punished severely. However, one wonders whether the banks should be punished. Many of these banks have ownership which turns over all the time. The investors should not necessarily be punished, either, as they are fraud victims. Rather, one should punish the managers of the banks. I'm talking about the executives who have collected hundreds of billions of dollars in stock options with little downside risk, many of whom owned little in stock at the time of the crash. These people should be going to prison in some cases. Of course we know that's not going to happen.