From a new paper (link below):
Kafka would have loved this story: According to our current understanding of U.S. law there is far better consumer protection for people who play the stock market than for people who are duped into buying a house with an exotically structured subprime mortgage, even when the mortgage instrument is immediately packaged and sold as part of a security.
The crux of the matter is that securities transactions – notably, the sale of a security to a customer by a broker – are governed by SEC regulations, which impose a fiduciary relationship on the broker, meaning, among other things, that the broker can only sell financial products that are suitable for that customer. However, no such rule governs the relationship of a homebuyer to a mortgage broker or company, meaning that behavior by the latter must be actually fraudulent before it can be sanctioned.
Jonathan Macey, Maureen O’Hara, and Gabe Rosenberg (two of whom are at my very own Yale Law School) have a new paper (abstract and download available) arguing not only that mortgage brokers should have a fiduciary responsibility to their customers, but that they already do under two reasonable interpretations of existing SEC regulations. (It has to do with whether a complex subprime mortgage is already a security or, failing that, whether it is related to a security transaction.) This means that the SEC could have been regulating these things all along.