A bankruptcy court in Oakland recently rebuffed a mortgage lender who claimed it had been defrauded by borrowers who lied on the loan application. The judge agreed the debtors falsely inflated their income, but found that the lender had not reasonably relied on the false representations. The lies were not enough to make the debt non dischargeable when the lender was asleep at the switch.
The broader question in the mortgage meltdown is whether the Wall Street firms that bought these liar loans from the sleeping lenders have any recourse against the lender. Can the seller of the loan escape responsibility for selling a financial instrument of questionable value? Did the Wall Street buyer have to investigate the actual bona fides of the loans or is it entitled to rely on the lender’s representation that the loan was sound?
Street smarts suggest that Wall Street was content not to look too closely at these loans so it could pretend that all of this profitable paper was what it was puffed up to be. Under the theory of the Hill case, they, too, may be found not to have been reasonable in their reliance.