Mortgage bankers and broker-dealers are strongly opposing the so-called “cram-down” amendment – allowing judges to modify mortgage terms in bankruptcy cases. The amendment is now attached to a broader financial reform bill in the House that may come to a vote today. The controversial provision, introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would allow bankruptcy courts to reduce mortgage interest rates, adjust principal balances or extend the term lengths of mortgages to rescue homeowners who face foreclosure.

Foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — hit 306,627 U.S. properties in November, the ninth straight month of 300,000-plus filings, reported RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosures. One in every 417 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in November, the report said.

They testified before the House Financial Services Committee, one mortgage industry expert after another, and they all had a similar theme: the Obama Administration’s mortgage modification program is flawed and doesn’t address the rampant, crippling issue of negative equity.

Banking giant Chase today said it has offered more than 568,000 mortgage modifications – more than $100 billion in loans – to struggling homeowners hoping to avoid foreclosure in 2009. Chase, the nation’s largest credit card issuer, also reported that of those modifications, more than 83,000 have become permanent.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, is asking the Federal Housing Administration to “aggressively” ensure that any legitimate and qualified Lend America borrower can secure a loan after this week’s shutdown of the Long Island-based mortgage servicer. Lend America, based in Melville, N.Y., shut its doors this week after the FHA withdrew its approval, citing fraudulent lending practices.

The Federal Reserve issued rules today which will increase the number of credit rating agencies – beyond the big three – to review the soundness of securities pledged for loans. The Fed’s intent is to provide further safeguards and provide a possible catalyst to increase lending as credit tightening among financial institutions persists.