In 2005, faced with ominous signs the housing market was in jeopardy, bank regulators proposed new guidelines for banks writing risky loans. Today, in the midst of the worst housing recession in a generation, the proposal reads like a list of what-ifs:
Regulators told bankers exotic mortgages were often inappropriate for buyers with bad credit.
Banks would have been required to increase efforts to verify that buyers actually had jobs and could afford houses.
Regulators proposed a cap on risky mortgages so a string of defaults wouldn't be crippling.
Banks that bundled and sold mortgages were told to be sure investors knew exactly what they were buying.
Regulators urged banks to help buyers make responsible decisions and clearly advise them that interest rates might skyrocket and huge payments might be due sooner than expected.
Those proposals all were stripped from the final rules. None required congressional approval or the president's signature.
Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. Many executives remain in high-paying jobs, even after their assurances were proved false.
Federal regulators were especially concerned about mortgages known as "option ARMs," which allow borrowers to make payments so low that mortgage debt actually increases every month. But banking executives accused the government of overreacting.
Bankers said such loans might be risky when approved with no money down or without ensuring buyers have jobs but such risk could be managed without government intervention.