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Sheila Bair May Propose Cutting Principal On Distressed Mortgage Loans

You see why the bully boys of Wall Street dislike Sheila Bair - and Elizabeth Warren? Because they actually think of the people hurt by the financia

You see why the bully boys of Wall Street dislike Sheila Bair - and Elizabeth Warren? Because they actually think of the people hurt by the financial industry's long, drunken binge and are trying to repair the damage. No wonder these women are unpopular with the in crowd:

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair indicated Thursday that she is exploring the idea of reducing the principal on as much as $45 billion in mortgages her agency has acquired from failed banks.

That would be the first significant government attempt to employ a measure that some economists and consumer advocates have long argued is the only really effective way to stop foreclosures.

Although the $45 billion in mortgages only amounts to less than half of one percent of mortgages nationwide, the move would be significant because the idea of reducing principal has been all but dismissed for the last nine months by the Obama administration.

Economists like Yale University's John Geanakoplos, however, have argued that cutting the principal on delinquent loans should have been the administration's practice all along. For the nearly quarter of American homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the house is worth, it's by far the best way to keep them in their homes and reduce foreclosures, Geanakoplos said in an interview last month.

Bair made her comments in an interview with Bloomberg News. She has not yet discussed her proposal with the Treasury Department, a senior administration official said Thursday in a brief interview. Though unfamiliar with the details of her proposal, the official said it was promising.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation no longer owns the mortgages directly; but when it sold them to solvent banks, it agreed to shoulder some of the future losses. Bair's move would effectively make sure that homeowners directly benefit from that guarantee, not just the lenders.

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