It's been over a year since I last posted on liar loans -- these are mortgages which the borrower obtains despite offering no documentation on their income, employment or assets. These liar loans were also known as Ninja loans -- which is short for no income, no job, and no assets. The Associated Press reports that such liar loans will add $100 billion to the losses our economy is already suffering thanks to $400 billion worth of losses from subprime mortgages.
The problem we face as an economy is that it's hard to see where the liar loans end and the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other asset-backed securities begin. In a sense, they are all liar loans. In the case of the mortgages, borrowers created paperwork that was inconsistent with their actual financial condition so they could get the money. In the case of CDOs, the issuing investment bank bought a AAA rating from a rating agency which created the illusion that the security was safe. Conceptually, there is little difference -- both depended on essentially forged paperwork to make the loan go through.
Why did banks issue liar loans? They were afraid to lose market share. But that doesn't make it right. As my mother used to say to me, if the other kids jumped off the Empire State Building, would you do it too? AP brings this to life in an interview with David Zugheri, co-founder of Texas-based lender First Houston Mortgage who said, "Everybody drank the Kool-Aid. They knew if they didn't give the borrower the loan they wanted, the borrower could go down the street and get that loan somewhere else.''