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Personal Finance News 04/2009

Health nominee Sebelius reveals tax errors (Reuters)
Reuters - Kathleen Sebelius, named as U.S. health secretary by President Barack Obama, became his latest nominee to reveal income tax issues, saying on Tuesday she paid nearly $8,000 to settle errors over three years.

U.S. mortgage applications climb, rates at fresh low (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. mortgage rates set fresh record lows last week, fostering demand for refinancing that drove home loan applications to the highest level since mid-January, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed on Wednesday.

U.S. urges requirement to keep mortgage records (Reuters)
Reuters - The U.S. Justice Department urged Congress on Wednesday to require mortgage companies to retain records for 10 years to make it easier to prosecute fraud.

Huntington eliminates problem subprime loans (AP)
AP - Regional bank Huntington Bancshares Inc. says it has cleared its books of troubled mortgages inherited through a merger.

KPMG hit with lawsuit over New Century collapse (Reuters)
Reuters - Accounting giant KPMG was hit with a billion-dollar lawsuit on Wednesday over claims its "grossly negligent audits" helped trigger the collapse of a top subprime mortgage lender at the start of the U.S. housing crisis.

Thornburg Mortgage plans to file for Chapter 11 (AP)
AP - Thornburg Mortgage Inc. says it expects to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sell or liquidate its remaining assets, then go out of business.

Mortgage lender blames KPMG for its failure (AP)
AP - The trustee for a California mortgage lender that collapsed two years after disclosing accounting errors sued accounting giant KPMG Wednesday, blaming it for its demise.

KPMG hit with lawsuit over New Century collapse (Reuters)
Reuters - Accounting giant KPMG was hit with a billion-dollar lawsuit on Wednesday over claims its "grossly negligent audits" helped trigger the collapse of a top subprime mortgage lender at the start of the U.S. housing crisis.

UK house prices 'rise unexpectedly in March' (AFP)
AFP - British house prices rose for the first time in 17 months during March, a survey by home-loans provider Nationwide showed on Thursday.

Gov't sees loan defaults, foreclosures rise (AP)
AP - The number of troubled loans backed by the government's mortgage insurance program is rising as economic problems mount, and lawmakers are worried taxpayers will be stuck with the final bill.

Mortgage rates at record low for 2nd week (AP)
AP - Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to the lowest level on record for the second consecutive week after the Federal Reserve launched a new effort to assist the staggering U.S. housing market.

Layoff insurance latest carrot for homebuyers (AP)
AP - Free granite countertops, swimming pools and landscaping aren't going to convince anyone who's afraid of losing a job to buy a home. But what about a promise to pay your mortgage if you get laid off?

BofA loses bid to OK Countrywide suit settlement (Reuters)
Reuters - A Delaware judge rejected Bank of America Corp's effort to settle a shareholder lawsuit over its 2008 purchase of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp, saying the settlement would wrongly scuttle potential fraud claims.

NJ gets $3.7 million in Countrywide settlement (AP)
AP - New Jersey will receive about $3.7 million from Countrywide Financial Corp. for a fund to help eligible homeowners and state programs as part of a nationwide settlement to resolve subprime mortgage complaints, the state said Thursday.

Re-default data shows Obama housing plan potential (Reuters)
Reuters - More than 58 percent of U.S. home loans modified in 2008 did not result in a decreased monthly payment, and those modifications often did not produce sustainable mortgages, according to a report released on Friday.

UK house prices fall 1.9 pct in March, report says (AP)
AP - House prices in Britain fell 1.9 percent in March compared to February, the country's biggest mortgage lender said Friday, dampening the optimism over a separate report earlier this week which said property values had edged higher.

Loan modifications rise; many don't pare payments (AP)
AP - Though lenders are boosting their attempts to curb record-high home foreclosures, fewer than half of loan modifications made at the end of last year actually reduced borrowers' payments by more than 10 percent, data released Friday show.

Fannie, Freddie worker bonuses total $210M (AP)
AP - Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to pay more than $210 million in bonuses through next year to give workers the incentive to stay in their jobs at the government-controlled companies.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac plan 210 mln in bonuses (AFP)
AFP - More than 7,600 employees of US government-rescued mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are to receive 210 million dollars in bonuses to keep them in their jobs, according to documents released by a lawmaker Friday.

Lawmaker sees Fannie, Freddie bonus "insult" (Reuters)
Reuters - Continuing bonuses paid to employees at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are offensive since taxpayers are helping keep the mortgage-finance companies afloat, a leading Senate Republican said on Friday.

A Boom for Tax Prep (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - As federal stimulus dollars begin to flow, one unlikely beneficiary is the $30 billion tax-preparation industry. Prep specialists from top dog H&R Block on down are celebrating as the Apr. 15 deadline approaches. The fresh treat: billions of dollars in new and expanded tax credits for individuals and small companies.

Government cracking down on mortgage scams (AP)
AP - Top federal and state officials on Monday announced a broad crackdown on mortgage modification scams, accusing "criminal actors" of preying on desperate borrowers caught up in the nation's housing crisis.

Sallie Mae to shift 2,000 jobs to U.S. from overseas (Reuters)
Reuters - Student loan company Sallie Mae plans to move its overseas operations back to the United States, creating 2,000 domestic jobs, in what analysts called an attempt to curry favor with the Obama administration.

Sallie Mae to add 2,000 jobs to US in 18 months (AP)
AP - Sallie Mae gave some hope to the unemployed Monday, announcing that it will bring 2,000 jobs to the U.S. within the next 18 months as it shifts call center and other operations from overseas.

US to work with Switzerland on tax secrecy (AFP)
AFP - The United States and Switzerland will begin negotiations to amend their bilateral income tax treaty to provide for improved transparency, the US Treasury Department said Monday.

U.S. lawmaker plans law to curtail risky mortgages (Reuters)
Reuters - A powerful U.S. lawmaker said on Monday he is preparing a broad package of legislation that would promote stability in the mortgage market by limiting future subprime lending, and would also take on executive compensation and limit systemic risk.

U.S. consumer credit falls sharply in February (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. consumer borrowing fell more steeply than expected in February as credit and charge card use dropped by the most on record, a Federal Reserve report showed on Tuesday.

US consumer credit shows surprise drop (AFP)
AFP - US consumer credit dropped by a more than expected 3.5 percent in February after posting an increase the preceding month, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday.

Consumer borrowing dips more than expected in Feb. (AP)
AP - Consumer borrowing plunged more than expected in February as Americans cut back their use of credit cards by a record amount.

U.S. mortgage applications up (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. mortgage applications rose last week, as demand for home purchase loans jumped even as interest rates edged up from recent record lows, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

Mortgage applications up as refinancing increases (AP)
AP - Mortgage applications continued to rise last week, as low interest rates allowed borrowers to refinance their home loans at the lowest rates in decades.

Insurers rise on report gov't may extend TARP (AP)
AP - Shares of U.S. life insurance companies rose broadly on Wednesday, after a report that the U.S. Treasury Department plans to extend the Troubled Asset Relief Program to some life insurers.

Business tax planning should be year-round process (AP)
AP - It can be tempting for small business owners, once their income tax returns are filed, to put the whole issue of taxes behind them.

Fed sees economy sliding further (Reuters)
Reuters - Federal Reserve policy-makers, faced with bleaker forecasts for a rapidly worsening recession, decided to buy a "substantial" amount of U.S. Treasury and mortgage debt to halt the slide, minutes of their most recent meeting showed on Wednesday.

ING to shed up to $10.6 billion of assets (Reuters)
Reuters - Dutch ING plans to sell operations worth up to 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion) to reduce risk, focus its bank on Europe, and manage its banking and insurance separately, boosting its shares on Thursday.

Mortgage rates tick up from record lows (AP)
AP - Rates on 30-year mortgages inched higher this week after two straight weeks of record lows, but still remained at attractive levels for borrowers looking to refinance their home loans.

Obama: Timing right for millions to refinance (AP)
AP - Declaring "good news" in the midst of an economic meltdown, President Barack Obama on Thursday urged families to take advantage of near-record low mortgage rates by refinancing their home loans.

Obama urges refinancing as housing measures roll out (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. President Barack Obama encouraged Americans on Thursday to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates and said his administration was rolling out further phases of its plan to address the housing crisis.

Obama says timing right for millions to refinance (AP)
AP - Declaring "good news" in the midst of an economic meltdown, President Barack Obama on Thursday urged families to take advantage of near-record low mortgage rates by refinancing their home loans. "We are at a time where people can really take advantage of this," Obama said, seated with a handful of homeowners who have already lowered their bills.

AP Poll: Taxpayers more frugal with refunds (AP)
AP - Most people say they plan to use this year's tax refund to pay bills, deciding in this sour economy to be more frugal with their annual windfall.

Meltdown 101: Is there a downside to mortgage aid? (AP)
AP - It's welcome relief for homeowners struggling with mortgage payments.

Obama to tap Fannie Mae CEO to head TARP: source (Reuters)
Reuters - The Obama administration is expected to name Fannie Mae Chief Executive Herb Allison to head the U.S. government's $700 billion financial rescue program, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Report: Fannie Mae CEO Allison to head TARP (AP)
AP - A published report says Fannie Mae CEO Herb Allison is expected to be named by the Obama administration to head the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Obama vows to reform "monstrous" tax code (Reuters)
Reuters - President Barack Obama promised Americans his administration would rewrite the "monstrous" U.S. tax code as millions faced an annual deadline on Wednesday for filing federal income tax returns.

Meltdown 101: Can't pay your taxes? Don't panic (AP)
AP - It's here, April 15, the deadline for filing income tax returns, and the IRS has some reassuring words for procrastinators, especially those who can't pay what they owe: Don't panic.

Obama raps corporations on tax loopholes (AFP)
AFP - President Barack Obama Wednesday vowed to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, as he marked nobody's favorite date, the April 15 filing deadline for annual US income tax returns.

6 companies to get $9.9B under mortgage program (AP)
AP - The Obama administration on Wednesday named the first six companies participating in a $75 billion program designed to help millions of struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Treasury tallies $10 billion for mortgage mods (Reuters)
Reuters - Six large U.S. banks could pocket nearly $10 billion in federal subsidies if they modify troubled home loans and are able to save homeowners from foreclosure, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.

Falling housing starts dampen recovery hopes (Reuters)
Reuters - New U.S. housing starts fell in March after a surprise surge the previous month, government data showed on Thursday, dealing a blow to hopes that housing market stability was on the horizon.

Recession still dragging down U.S. economy (Reuters)
Reuters - The number of Americans claiming jobless aid hit a record early in April and groundbreaking for new homes slumped in March, according to data on Thursday that showed an economy still struggling to crawl out of recession.

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