||Jan 3, 2013
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The year is 2006 and everyone knows you can make a killing in mortgage lending. Christy and Megan, two small-town girls from the Palouse region of Eastern Washington, arrive in Seattle with newly minted finance degrees and dollar signs in their eyes. Both are eager to grab their chance at becoming mortgage loan officers. If only they can pass the training class!
Meet Christy. She’s all about Palouse. She was born in the town of Palouse, in the Palouse region of Washington State. Her family name is Palus, and her father is a descendant of the Palouse tribe. Watered down to a few drops. Still, it’s something she is proud of.
If someone had told her that she will become a predatory lender, betray her best friend, fall in love with a thief, and help her bosses bust up the bank she works for, she would have laughed out loud. This is the summer of 2006, and everyone knows you can make a killing in mortgage lending. Christy and her BFF Megan moved to the big city of Seattle to do just that. While Megan is already dreaming of hot cars and designer clothes, “good girl” Christy’s ambitions are more modest. At first! So how is it her fault that she lands in the world of subprime lending; you know, the stuff that lost families their homes and wrecked our economy?
When Christy is accepted into loan officer training, she realizes quickly that she doesn’t have the job unless she can pass. But before the class ends, Big Lou turns everything upside down. A new day has come to mortgage banking, and every American family deserves to own a home. With the real estate market “hotter than a hot air balloon,” how can homeowners lose? Or the bank, for that matter? Hello, NINJA loans!
Leaving Megan behind, Christy climbs the corporate ladder, all the way to her very own corner office. Watch her squirm, attempting to hold on to what’s right while being assaulted morally from every direction. And when the bubble bursts, her world comes crashing down!
Is Christy the predatory lender?
It’s Monday night and Bubba’s Place is dead. Two biker types sit at a window table, tucking into slabs of ribs and fries. They’re drinking beer from Steins. A waitress with panda bear eyes and facial piercings is refilling condiments. She turns to stare at me, wiping her ketchup-stained hands on a rag. In my double-breasted pinstripes I’m slightly overdressed for the place. She grabs a menu and heads my way. But I wave her off and walk into the interior of the room, my heels clacking on the concrete floor.
I find Ed at the bar nursing a beer. Urgent and confidential is what his cryptic e-mail message had said, asking me to meet him at this Capitol Hill dive.
“Nice place.” I extract a tissue from my bag and flick it at the barstool next to him before I dare hoist myself up. My dry cleaner is already getting rich.
“Christy.” His grin is catawampus. His eyes are more shifty than normal. “I was worried you wouldn’t make it.”
“Sorry if I’m late but it’s not easy finding a safe parking spot in this neighborhood.” Glancing at his jeans and tee, I realize he’s taken the time to change. “I wish you’d told me about the dress code here. I would have worn my leathers.”
“Beer?” he asks.
“Preferably not touched by human hands.” I look around. The counter is damp from spilled drinks. The beer on tap is Bud. The bar is stocked with fifths of mostly cheap well brands. The waitress takes her condiment tray and disappears behind double swinging doors. There’s no one else here. It’s just Ed and me and the bikers. “Busy place,” I say. “Favorite hangout of yours?”
He grins that skewed grin.
“What’s wrong with La Belle’s? Too clean?”
“You know the place is crawling with Goode Mortgage types. I didn’t want anyone to think we’re dating.”
“Whose reputation are you protecting, yours or mine?”
Ed laughs at this. Then, squirming on his barstool, he asks, “You didn’t tell anyone?”
“Only Big Lou, Steve, and Frances.”
I hear the swoosh of swinging doors and turn. A man with giant handlebar mustaches lumbers toward us, wearing a black tank top that shows off his tats. He steps behind the bar and scowls. Bubba, I presume. Taking his frown as my invitation to order, I ask, “Do you have Kronenbourg?”
I’m not really a beer drinker but when I do have a brew, I prefer the taste of this French import I discovered at La Belle’s.
He stares at me as if I’m an alien life form. I decide to elaborate, citing the words I read on La Belle’s drink menu. “It’s a light lager that pours straw-yellow with a healthy head of foam.”
“One of them sissy beers with pom-a-gra-nate?” He snorts and twirls his mustaches toward his ears, then takes a broad stance behind the counter, folding his arms across his colossal chest. I take that as a no.
A Wonderful Narrative of a Shadowy Industry
It often takes a good narrative for a message to really hit your core as a reader, and Irma Fritz hammers home this story on the lending industry. Confessions of a Predatory lender hits many topics that have been discussed endlessly since the financial crash of 2008-09, but few have dared discuss how lenders live with themselves knowing they were robbing people.
Irma Fritz tackles many hard societal questions in a wonderful narrative fashion. The characters move through the complicated world of lending, attempting to hold on to what is right while being assaulted morally from every direction. Each and every chapter brings new problems that nearly every person in the United States has had to deal with, and Fritz highlights how what is right, can often be hidden from our sight.
The book is hilarious, uncomfortable, sad, and always fully engaging. I encourage everyone to read this book, even if you are not interested economics, the story is excellent and stands by itself. 30 years from now this book will still be a wonderful read.
Entertaining and Informative
If someone had told me I'd enjoy reading a book where the main characters are predatory mortgage lenders, I wouldn't have believed them. But that's the profession of Christy and Megan in CONFESSIONS OF A PREDATORY LENDER.
These two young women from a small town in eastern Washington move to Seattle and begin careers at fictional Goode Mortgage Company, a well-respected firm. But before long they're caught up in the craziness of a real estate boom, partially fueled by new, relaxed lending rules straight out of Washington, D.C. Building on the belief that home prices would keep on rising, lenders devised "creative" financing packages (including subprime loans) and buyers grabbed them, often taking on more debt than they could afford. While Megan and Christy arranged loans for their customers, they also went into debt themselves and lived the high life. But what goes up must come down. What happens when the bubble bursts?
What I liked best about the book is that while I was caught up in the story of two appealing young women, living and loving in Seattle, I learned something about the whole real estate market collapse. The author did a good job of presenting the facts without bombarding me with details or preaching. Since Irma Fritz spent many years working in the banking industry, she knows her stuff. The book gave me a better understanding of what happened to the U.S. economy during the mortgage crisis and some of the reasons behind it and at the same time entertained me with Christy and Megan's story. I highly recommend this well written, entertaining story.
Compelling Look at the Banking (and Bankers) Meltdown
This is a light-hearted read about a complex and disturbing time in American history. Christy and Megan are too young and too naïve to know how far-reaching their actions may be. They hurt their clients, their friends and family, and themselves, all the while trying to make it in this world. Fun book that gives fresh insight into the good, the bad and the downright ugliness of the banking industry, as seen through the eyes of likeable, small-town girls.
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