Interest Rate Roundup

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

HOPE NOW just hype ... or substance?

In a bit of media fanfare today, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced that he has convened a group of mortgage companies, counselors and investors to figure out ways to ease the pain of the housing bust. The coalition, dubbed (yes, I'm serious) HOPE NOW, will reportedly "seek to get information to more imperiled homeowners, improve communication between mortgage servicers and non-profit counselors and find a way to pay for counseling as part of mortgage-servicing contracts," per Bloomberg. Here's another story from AP with some more detail.

I hate to sound cynical, but my sense is there's nothing "new" here. Regulators, members of Congress, trade groups, lenders and consumer groups are already trying to help troubled borrowers and minimize foreclosures. Wrapping those efforts up in a warm and fuzzy package -- and slapping a cheesy name on them -- may get you some coverage on the evening news, but it doesn't really change anything. Indeed, just a few days ago, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair essentially spelled out what regulators have already been doing to push and prod mortgage lenders and servicers to do the right thing.

Now, if I were the petty type, I'd point out these guys were all asleep at the switch when this whole ridiculous housing/lending bubble was inflating in the first place. But lucky for you, I'm not.


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