The Great Collapse: How Securitization Caused the Subprime Meltdown
56 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009
Date Written: May 2009
This Article builds on existing criticism of securitizing subprime loans and argues that one of the primary causes of the subprime meltdown and the resulting economic collapse was the structure of securitization as applied to subprime and other non-prime residential loans, along with the resecuritization of the resulting mortgage-backed securities. Securitization weakened underwriting by discouraging originators from gathering “soft information” about the likelihood of borrower default and instead caused loan originators and other market participants to focus almost exclusively on such “hard information” as FICO scores and loan to value ratios. At each stage of the loan and securitization process, securitization encouraged market participants to push risk to the very edge of what the applicable market standards would tolerate, to make the largest, riskiest loans that could be sold on Wall Street, to bundle them using the fewest credit enhancements rating agencies would permit, and then to repeat the securitization process with many of the lower-rated mortgage-backed securities that resulted. Loan originators could profit by bargaining down the due diligence of other market participants and so reduce their own underwriting standards. Securitization also created a business model for subprime lenders whereby they could “profitably fail.” Thinly capitalized subprime lenders could generate large numbers of loans likely to default, along with substantial profits for the executives who directed them, and then simply exit the market when they predictably lost their access to the securitization pipeline.
Keywords: mortgage, subprime, securitization, consumer protection, foreclosure, structured assets
JEL Classification: G21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation