Monday, May 21, 2007

Incentive Incompatibility at Mortgage Brokers

From a recent Washington Post:

"Maggie Hardiman cringed as she heard the salesmen knocking the sides of desks with a baseball bat as they walked through her office. Bang! Bang!

'You cut my [expletive] deal!' she recalls one man yelling at her. 'You can't do that.' Bang! The bat whacked the top of her desk. As an appraiser for a company called New Century Financial, Hardiman was supposed to weed out bad mortgage applications. Most of the mortgage applications Hardiman reviewed had problems, she said.

But 'you didn't want to turn away a loan because all hell would break loose,' she recounted in interviews. When she did, her bosses often overruled her and found another appraiser to sign off on it.

'There was instant notification to everyone as soon as you rejected a loan. And you dreaded doing it because you paid for it. Two guys would come with a bat, and they were all [ticked] off because you cut their deals.'

This sounds like something out of The Sopranos, except it was happening at the nation's third largest subprime lender, which wrote tens of billions in loans.

It's really not that surprising. This story could have come from a book about S&L Crisis I.

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