Annals of government toothlessness, HAMP edition


Felix Salmon
Reuters
October 7, 2011

ProPublica’s Paul Kiel has a fantastic story today about the way in which the government has proved utterly toothless with regard to auditing its mortgage-modification programs, never mind publicizing or enforcing whatever violations it did manage to find. HAMP, it turns out, is a perfect example of what happens when the government mandates change without enforcing it: huge amounts of money get spent, to little or no lasting effect. Neil Barofsky provides the nut quote:

“If you have a set of rules for which compliance is completely voluntary and no meaningful consequences for those who violate them, having all the audits and reviews in the world are not going to make a bit of difference,” he said. “It’s why the program has been a colossal failure.”

Kiel’s story is based on the government audits of just one mortgage servicer — GMAC — since Treasury refuses to release the audits of anybody else. (It only released GMAC’s after GMAC itself, to its credit, consented to the release.) Treasury has paid servicers some $471 million in cash incentives — but taxpayers aren’t allowed to audit where that cash has gone, or whether it has been effective. It’s a fiasco.

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