Wednesday Links: Lost Docs, No-Bid Bonds, Ex-Im

ProPublica pushes back against the idea, furthered by a recent New York Times column, that the administration’s loan-modification program is failing in large part because borrowers just aren’t submitting documents. Paul Kiel raises the very good point out that even if they are submitting them, the banks are probably losing them.

Homeowners and advocates are full of stories of servicers misplacing documents – and have been since the start of the program, which was designed to curb surging foreclosures by giving mortgage servicers incentives to modify troubled loans. Believing the servicers’ explanation of what has gone wrong “assumes that the servicers aren’t losing things and are accurately telling borrowers what they’re supposed to send in,” said Diane Thompson of the National Consumer Law Center. “There’s no evidence to support that assumption.”

Remember, in some instances, the banks themselves can’t even produce the note on a house.

— Bloomberg has a nice piece of accountability journalism today looking at how the Chicago sewer authority’s no-bid bond sale cost taxpayers some $8 million.

A sewer authority is 90 times less likely to default than a corporate borrower with a similar credit rating. Yet, the Chicago agency wasn’t able to get a yield similar to those obtained for shareholders by Johnson & Johnson or Microsoft Corp., both ranked AAA.

Adding to the stench, the authority initially withheld some documents from Bloomberg when it answered its FOIA request. The bad part? Bloomberg reports that 84 percent of the municipal-bond market’s sales are similarly without competitive bidding.

The Wall Street Journal has a good story on the U.S. Export-Import Bank and its critical role in a downturn. This is one of these big, important programs that most people never think of, and in this case the Journal focuses on how dependent Boeing is on it in this downturn. But it gets bogged down somewhat in a he-said/she-said battle over whether the program is an unnecessary market-distorting government program or a necessary example of good government at work.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.