A Moratorium On Due Process, Cont'd

Via Atrios, who cares about the rule of law?

It’s actually a bit sickening to hear defaulted borrowers describing the misdeeds of banks as “mortgage fraud.” What some banks have done might well be fraud—but the fact of that fraud doesn’t erase the other fact that the borrower agreed to make payments or face the penalty of losing her home.

"These companies that are too big to fail apparently also think they're also too big to comply with the law of the land and it's beyond outrageous," D’Amelio’s lawyer tells CNNMoney. Maybe I’ve missed something here. Can someone please explain why banks being ‘too big to fail’ should mean that D’Amelio should get to live in a house she hasn’t paid for?

Citi does not own the note on the house. Fannie Mae does. Foreclosure is a process by which the actual creditor gets to try and recover monies owed to it. Citi does not own the debt. Fannie Mae does. Citi has no right to seek to recover monies that are not owed to it. How hard is it to understand this basic point?

Speaking for me only

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    Guess the issue is how the assignment (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by BTAL on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 05:56:16 PM EST
    was recorded/transacted.  

    Spend an interesting hour today reading the deposition transcript of MERS CEO Arnold on an AL foreclosure case.  His position was that the sale/assignment of the note does not have to be recorded in the land records system, only the mortgage.  MERS appears to be the Achilles heal that may be exploited.  

    To me, this kind of reasoning is no (5.00 / 8) (#5)
    by Anne on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 06:13:50 PM EST
    different from someone saying that it doesn't matter if the police didn't follow procedure, or prosecutors denied someone his or her rights, if we all "know" that someone is guilty of committing a crime; it's ends-justify-the-means logic, which isn't the way we're supposed to do things.

    And no one seems to grasp that filing false affidavits with the court, under penalties of perjury, is no different than if an actual human being took the stand, swore to tell the truth, and then flat-out lied.

    The "paperwork problems" that the banking and mortgage-serving industry wants everyone to focus on, isn't "the" problem, but a symptom of something much bigger and much more pernicious.  And it certainly cannot be fixed by saying "oops!" and filing new affidavits.

    Whether someone gets to live in a house "for free" isn't nearly as problematic as how long it will take to clear title to millions of homes - including the titles to homes where mortgages are current and the homeowner thinks he or she doensn't have a problem because they aren't caught up in what they think is a problem confined to those in foreclosure.  Or what investors who bought mortgage-backed securities will do to recoup their losses if their investment turns out to be worthless because the trusts that issued the securities don't own the underlying mortgages.

    Yes, a lot of people bought homes they had to stretch to afford, banking on the sales pitch of "your home will only increase in value, your equity will increase and then you can refinance," but banks and brokers looked the other way, ignored conventional underwriting standards, because everyone was looking to cash in.

    If the lenders failed to dot all the i's and cross all the t's in their haste to start cashing in, that's on them.  And if they thought the best way to cover up their mistakes was to commit fraud upon the courts, well, I think that needs to be taken seriously, and consequences imposed.

    What really makes me angry is that we keep allowing the "too big to fail" metric to excuse the behavior of corporate entities which have done little but sink their teeth into the economy and consumers with no regard for the consequences.

    It's beyond unconscionable.

    For anyone who wants to learn more about what's really at stake, I would suggest they start with Yves Smith at nakedcapitalism.com.

    And every time they (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by ruffian on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 06:59:06 PM EST
    ignored underwriting standards to push more loans into the system, it inflated  the bubble in prices that much more for the people that came after. Now the newer quickie loans were even more likely to fail because there was more money at stake. Higher risk is what they wanted. It was designed into the system.

    This is why to me it is mortgage fraud, not just foreclosure fraud. The basis of the loans were inflated artificially by the very volume of loans they were making.


    Welcome to my world (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 07:07:56 PM EST
    Its all that and more. There are the charelton defense counsels who don't know what they are doing and the ethically dubious mill attorneys, who also don't know what they are doing, who perpetrate fraud on the court, who have no respect for the rules, or opposing counsel.

    You really have to see it to believe it, (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 11:45:04 PM EST
    don't you?

    Except, ya know most (none / 0) (#9)
    by me only on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 07:54:14 PM EST
    people teach their kids "two wrongs don't make a right."

    Justice is depicted as a blind lady with a scale.  On one side, the homeowner who isn't paying the mortgage and squatting.  On the other side the bank is fudging the paperwork.


    Mortgages bad from the beginning (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by waldenpond on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:05:50 AM EST
    I don't think people realize how many of the mortgages were bad from the beginning.  I know one person where they counted the SS of their sons 115 and 16.  Uh?  what?  They age out of SS at 18 and the family now has $700 less per month.  The husband is not financially astute and the wife was dealing with cancer and too exhausted to figure it out.

    They brought in a lawyer and the bank concedes it didn't follow it's own policy and yes, they are ue a mod but the bank is dealing with non-payers and told them to come back in two years.  They have very little savings or retirement and they will lose a house they have had for nearly 20 years.

    "fudging" paperwork.  oy.  You do realize people will be going to jail don't you?

    Yes, a contract requires payment or keys... next comes re-fi then comes foreclosure.  The scamsters are skipping re-fi and not following foreclosure nor eviction procedures according to contracts they signed.


    Yep - does anyone really think (none / 0) (#32)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:31:33 AM EST
    that the mortgage industry was in less of a hurry to make loans 5 yrs ago than they are to foreclose now? If they are cutting legal corners now to foreclose, you can bet they cut an equal amount of corners in making the loans originally.

    There are also cases (none / 0) (#10)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 07:56:51 PM EST
    of foreclosure of homes where the owner is paying the mortgage.  

    Yeah, something like 99% (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by me only on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 08:05:32 PM EST
    There are also innocent people that get convicted of crimes.  Are you proposing a moratorium on criminal prosecutions?

    In these cases, who would you have.... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Romberry on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 01:00:43 AM EST
    ...the homeowner pay the mortgage to? Think about it and get back to me on that one.

    The bank (none / 0) (#25)
    by me only on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:02:53 AM EST
    when a bank securitizes a loan the bank continues to be the servicing entity for the loan.  The homeowner doesn't start writing checks to everyone that buys the security.

    When one borrows money from a bank, (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by Anne on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:40:57 AM EST
    it is under no obligation to continue to hold the loan.  It can - and often does - almost immediately sell that loan to another bank.  You own the property, subject to the mortgage or deed of trust, and the bank owns the debt.

    At some point, your loan might be sold/assigned to an investment bank that will package it with hundreds or thousands of others, for the eventual purpose of selling shares in the package to outside investors - securitizing them.  But the packaging bank can't do that directly, so the nicely packaged loans are assigned to a custodian, which in turn assigns them to a trustee.  This is the chain of conveyance of the loan; at the end of it is an entity that owns the debt and has the right to collect on it - if all of the proper assignments have been executed.

    Meanwhile, you are still paying your mortgage to whichever servicer you have been notified to send payments to; the servicer is collecting your monthly checks - along with the checks from all the other loans it services, and allocating it accordingly - it isn't up to you to do that.

    If you default on the loan and the foreclosure process is started, it is done on the basis that the trustee - the last link in the chain of conveyance of the debt - has been properly assigned all the right, title and interest in that debt.

    If the proper assignments haven't been made, as required under the servicing agreements, then the trustee doesn't have the required interest in the loan to allow it to foreclose, and the affidavits it is filing that say it does are false.

    Does someone have the right to foreclose on your property?  Possibly.  But what if the originating bank doesn't exist?  What if the bank that bought the original loan from the originating bank no longer exists?  Who owns your loan?  

    And suppose you have been faithfully paying your mortgage, and have decided you want - or need - to sell?  How do you clear title to a property if it cannot be determined who owns your loan?

    I'll be interested in your answers.


    And what if your servicer (none / 0) (#33)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:38:54 AM EST
    is keeping your monthly payment and not sending it on to anyone because it knows the chain of conveyance is broken, and no one really holds the note?

    I'm guessing that when the onion is peeled we are going to find fraud at this level.


    That's now within the servicer's perview (none / 0) (#40)
    by BTAL on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 12:41:00 PM EST
    They have a contract that determines where the funds are to be distributed and from which they will not deviate.

    Yes, of course (none / 0) (#47)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 06:26:05 PM EST
    No...that's just wrong (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Romberry on Fri Oct 15, 2010 at 03:32:38 AM EST
    When a bank sells a mortgage, which entity winds up being the servicer is an open question. But your response misses the point even if the bank remains the servicer. Who own the loan? Even if the bank remains the servicer, to whom do they remit the proceeds? What you seem to be struggling with is the fact that the owner of the mortgages in these cases is less than clear. A defective transfer of title/note means that there was effectively no transfer at all.

    Put it this way....

    Suppose you go to a local car dealer and buy a car. You send payments to your bank. But months later your find out that the car dealer never actually had title to the car and never transferred the title to the bank. In fact, what you find is that the last legal owner still...well...legally owns the car you are paying for. Do you keep paying for the car that the dealer had no right to sell? Do you keep paying the bank which doesn't actually own the title? Who do you pay?

    Your replies read to me as if all that matters to you is that someone keeps on paying. Is that my imagination?


    probably as difficult as (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 07:59:15 PM EST
    How hard is it to understand this basic point?

    there never were any WMD's in iraq, it was all lies used to justify the otherwise unjustifiable.

    or something like that.

    Rule of Law - What's That? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 08:23:56 AM EST
    Ever since the Dems took impeachment "off the table", the message of our culture has ceased to be that we are a nation where all are treated equally before the law, but one where the rule of law is made to be bent, and whatever meme gets carried by the media rules the day. I remember an exasperated Lawrence O'Donnell complaining about the so-called Vets group that was running ads against Kerry with little regard for the truth, and asking why groups like that were allowed to come onto "news" shows and freely parade their smear campaigns as though they were reporting fact.  O'Donnell disappeared off the air for a while, and the meme has continued.  We've had no-bid contracts, I believe, in violation of Federal contract rules & regs, politicized government agencies, oil spill by yours truly that continues to partake in federal contracting, and I'm sure you could go on.  The whole discussion about the mosque in downtown NYC, misrepresented as a mosque at ground zero to the point where the haters were able to premise the "discussion" on the misstatement of the mosque's location, and dismissive of freedom of religion and separation of church and state under the Constitution.  And, let's not even start on warrantless wire-tapping, torture and what-have-you.  So the rule of law has been undermined to the point where I doubt school kids have a clue what it means and the difference between constitutional and arbitrary government.

    When the Watergate impeachment hearings began, only 25% were in favor of Nixon's impeachment; then came the televised impeachment hearings, with some of the old starts of the Senate, strictly following procedures, patiently asking question after question, and allowing the facts to come out as the nation watched spellbound as the case unfolded.  Result: The nation got a living education in the rule of law, and 75% were in favor of impeachment at the end of the process.

    I'd love to hear from Cream what her students know about rule of law.....

    Hey, there. You loved Sam Ervin, too? (none / 0) (#39)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:57:11 AM EST
    Ah, those "old starts" of the Senate and those amazing hearings. . . .

    But to your query:  My students know very little of the rule of law when they come to my courses.  By the end, some know more -- and you can bet that they get a lot on Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, etc.  It is clear that they also never got an eddication in any of that in K12, either.

    Now, as to how many of them actually attend class on those days to witness my impassioned lectures and some video clips from that era, how many of them actually do the readings, etc., don't ask.  It's too depressing.

    But I soldier on -- as we're only coming up to the Civil War now, time to ramp up discussion of the rule of law, as we examine how much Lincoln violated it, one of the reasons some historians call him the first modern president.  Now isn't that definition of the modern presidency depressing, too?


    At least (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 03:41:05 PM EST
    Lincoln was actually faced with a war recognized as such technically!

    Soldier on!!


    rule of law? WTF is that? I was 13 in '73 (none / 0) (#48)
    by seabos84 on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 10:36:16 PM EST
    and my family was on welfare, and I remember john dean doing a year or two in club fed and writing a book for a fat check - as did a lot of nixon's criminals.

    I've made 51k twice in my 50 years, and lot less all the rest.

    Ju$tice? ha ha ha.

    what is that?



    yeah, he "missed something here" (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by eparrot on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 03:38:12 PM EST
    When I got my mortgage, I did not give the lienholder the right to foreclose on my mortgage just because I stop paying.  Nor does the law specify that (at least not in most states). Instead for foreclosure to be legal, not only must I stop paying, but the lienholder must follow certain procedures.

    In one sense the buyers "agreed to make payments or face the penalty of losing her home." But only if additional steps were taken on the part of the lienholder. If they screw up, the lienholders shouldn't expect to be able to exercise their rights any more than I should expect any slack if my mortgage check gets lost in the mail.

    If rocket docket judges (none / 0) (#1)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 05:52:12 PM EST
    don't seem to understand....

    To quote (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 06:08:31 PM EST
    BTD, oh Gawd. It must be a conservative who wrote that.

    Ah, Fannie Mae (none / 0) (#13)
    by diogenes on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 09:22:47 PM EST
    Fannie Mae's buying dodgy mortgage loans--wasn't Barney Frank somehow connected with that?  The Texas Insider may be a biased source of info, but is this wrong:
    "The country's stock of low-income homes had remained flat for more than a decade when Frank and his allies in the House spotted an opportunity in the early 1990s. They concluded that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created by lawmakers to promote housing and based in Congress's back yard, were not doing enough for the poor - even less, in fact, than some Wall Street banks."
    Thus, these two underwater entities.

    dodgy loans (5.00 / 9) (#14)
    by CST on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 11:10:20 PM EST
    Are you aware of the fact that the rich are.much more likely to foreclose?  The dodgiest loans were the megamansions for the upper middle class.  Not fannie and Freddie.  It's convenient to blame the poor.  That doesn't make it honest.  

    Besides, by the height of the boom the banks were all in on even those low income loans waaaay deeper than fannie and Freddie.  They were just players in the market, not the drivers.


    Thank you (5.00 / 6) (#15)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 11:19:03 PM EST
    Man, am I sick of hearing this completely provably false claim made by every rightie on the planet.

    Fannie Mae (none / 0) (#23)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 08:41:24 AM EST
    didn't encourage HELOC(Home Equity Loans) abuse which is what many middle to upper-class homeowners did during the housing boom, and which drives many of their foreclosures these days.

    We are far beyond that (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 08:47:37 AM EST
    That was the beginning of the crisis.  People with no jobs and not able to pay sensible mortgages are now where we are.

    Oh, I've no doubt that for every HELOC (none / 0) (#26)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:04:27 AM EST
    abuser there are perhaps 6 to 10 people in the situation you describe, and we have more problems coming up with those ticking time bombs known as "Option ARMs" getting ready to reset and create more financial carnage.

    From www.irvinghousingblog(dot)com:

    93 percent of option ARM borrowers went with the minimum payment.  So a $475,000 mortgage would cost you $1,939 a month.  This is for principal and interest.  You still have taxes and insurance but let us set that aside for the moment.  Now looking at the above, you notice that each year $10,572 is negatively amortized.  That is, your actual loan balance will increase.  Now here is the interesting thing.  The actual term on many of the Option ARMs was five years or 60 months with the minimum payment.  But many had ceiling caps of 110 or 125 percent.  In the above, we are assuming a 110 percent cap.  So in fact, the borrower will hit a recast date in the fourth year because of the negative amortization.

    I think the example presented above is great because it is so real and easy to follow. It isn't difficult to imagine thousands of borrowers here in Irvine facing these circumstances. There wasn't much subprime here, but Option ARMs are common because people could reduce their housing costs so much by using them. It is too bad they are so toxic.

    Do you know many people who can afford to have their house payment go from $1,939 to $3,708? Do you know may who will choose to do so when they are hopelessly underwater?

    Click Me


    Apparently the term driver is unknown to you (none / 0) (#27)
    by me only on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:11:18 AM EST
    If Barne Riis was the first rider to dope and win the Tour de France, other riders realized they could not win clean.  So they also doped.  While Barne Riis is one guy and in 1998 the entire Festina team was removed from the Tour because of doping.

    Why did Festina dope? 'Cause they had no hope of winning without out it.

    Why did banks follow Fannie and Freddie down the path of crappy loans, because they had to keep market share.  In the book "Good to Great" it was pointed out how successful Fannie was.  Of course everybody followed suit.

    Secondly, "the rich" are much more likely to foreclose because of the second home.  When you strip out second homes, the numbers are no longer "much more likely."  Why do the rich let second homes foreclose at such high rates?  When the rich own a second home it is not an income producing property.


    i know (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by CST on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:18:35 AM EST
    it's the second home.  That doesn't make it any less true.  And it doesn't mean that that isn't still producing the same effect on the market.  Why strip out second homes?  It's the same exact result on the market whether you own three houses or one.

    Why all the focus on low-income if they aren't the ones who tanked the market.  They are struggling like everyone else, but clearly the excess supply and drop in demand is coming primarily from elsewhere.  They make a convenient boogey-man that's why.

    Banks didn't just keep market share.  They GAINED market share.  As in, they ran with the model and won.  No one cares if the guy who came in fifth place was doping.


    re:Stupidity (5.00 / 4) (#29)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:21:11 AM EST
    Why did banks follow Fannie and Freddie down the path of crappy loans, because they had to keep market share.

    As Paul Krugman explained at www.nytimes(dot)com:

    3. During those same years, Fannie and Freddie were sidelined by Congressional pressure, and saw a sharp drop in their share of securitization


    Of course, I imagine that this post, like everything else, will fail to penetrate the cone of silence. It's convenient to believe that somehow, this is all Barney Frank's fault; and so that belief will continue.

    Click Me


    Sounds like the investors... (none / 0) (#16)
    by NealB on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 11:44:46 PM EST
    ...that bought into these investments made a bad investment, relying on representations by whichever entity sold it to them that the investments were sound, when they weren't.

    In short, the investors made the mistake, buying the securities that weren't legally secure. On the surface, it appears they bought swampland in Florida (as my parents used to say in the 60s).

    Well, either way, blame the banksters in the middle. They're the ones that screwed over their customers. The banksters should be forced to pay whatever they've got, then thrown into jail for the rest of their natural lives.

    Meanwhile, long as I can, like my grandparents and parents before me, I'll continue to pay my mortgage, on which I was screwed fair and square. It's the American way.

    Either way, the banksters can live in the hell they've made for themselves. Lots of them have lost THEIR jobs. My guess is the rest of them live their lives, such as they are, in hell. Their own fault.

    The investors included (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Cream City on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 11:55:53 PM EST
    pension funds such as those of your state (and mine, as I recall) and many a city, school district, etc.  That is, many of us with pension funds or just by our residence ARE the investors.

    What pension fund, specifically... (none / 0) (#19)
    by NealB on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 12:44:10 AM EST
    ...are you talking about? "...many of us with pension funds or just by our residence ARE the investors...." Don't know what you mean.

    You don't get to choose your pension fund ... (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by cymro on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 12:57:24 AM EST
    ... if you participate in a fund created by your State, School District, etc. Where you live and work determines which pension fund you are participating in.

    I believe that's the point.


    Oh yeah (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:36:44 AM EST
    We've all been shafted.  There is no clear title on your house, or you have no pension worth anything, or you have no job because the financial industry has crashed our whole economy.  Maybe they even got you on all three, but they've gotten all of us.....there was no way to choose your way out of this one.  They owned us and still do now that they are the only ones on the field who cannot be allowed to fail.  All the rest of us are free to become hamburger in the wake of what they have done, but they have been promised survival....the rest of us....ummmm no because this is a capitalist society for human beings :)  It is a communist society though for corporations and the financial industry :)

    I believe it was (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Zorba on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 02:18:31 PM EST
    Nouriel Roubini ("Dr. Doom" himself) who first said "profits are privatized and losses are socialized."

    What will they feed on when (none / 0) (#35)
    by Anne on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:41:42 AM EST
    they've sucked the life out of the rest of us?

    Will they go all Lord-of-the-Flies and feed on each other?

    I mean, once they grind us into dust, what's next?


    On to the next country (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by waldenpond on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:56:00 AM EST
    Just like they manipulate individual stocks to bleed money out of the system by artificially inflating or dropping it's price, they attacked city, counties, states and now they tinker with entire countries.  They make money when they take it down and money when it comes back up.

    Just need some larger servers to be able to manage the global rape.  It's a little hard with the scatter shot approach with nations.


    I do not know (none / 0) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:46:50 AM EST
    But anyone who wants to believe that we have "avoided" another Depression might want to take a deeper look into where we stand and where our leaders are determined to go and take us with them at break neck speed.

    Yep; see cymro's reply (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 11:49:15 AM EST
    as I'm a state employee, so my pension fund -- and yours as a state taxpayer, paying in part of the contribution (although I pay most of it) -- is not in my control or yours, although we are the investors.

    Same for your city employees' pension fund, your school employees' pension fund, etc.  But I'm sure that they thank you, too, for investing in it with your income and property taxes.


    MERS search (none / 0) (#41)
    by BTAL on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 01:57:14 PM EST
    for those that might be interested, you can search for your mortgage on the MERS system.  The result will let you know if MERS is involved and will also show who the Investor Trust may be if in MERS.


    Nope.....Sorry (none / 0) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 02:30:28 PM EST
    Oh Yeah...I'm in there, I am found, but my investors once again can't be named.  On the site though it says that my investors have "chose" to remain nameless and that I must contact my servicer.  The servicer hasn't been able to tell me quickly either though.  They said they would get back to me.

    Mine (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 03:03:28 PM EST
    says Mellon Bank of New York which is not Bank of America which I have been told it was. The servicing company is the same one that I have BUT maybe my loan is not with BoA and I have been paying the wrong person? This is so messed up it's giving me a headache.

    Rule of Law gone missing (none / 0) (#50)
    by BackFromOhio on Fri Oct 15, 2010 at 08:14:55 PM EST
    In today's column by Paul Krugman, entitled "The Mortgage Morass," he writes:

    The accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom dispelled the myth of effective corporate governance. These days, the idea that our banks were well capitalized and supervised sounds like a sick joke. And now the mortgage mess is making nonsense of claims that we have effective contract enforcement -- in fact, the question is whether our economy is governed by any kind of rule of law.