As bad as the subprime mortgage meltdown has been, market analysts don't question that there will be a recovery. The concern is really about how soon the bounce-back will happen. The toll the mess has taken on the reputation of mortgage brokers, however, is a different matter.

With the housing market spiraling out of control, the role of the mortgage broker has come under intense scrutiny by the media, Congress, as well as consumer and advocacy groups. The criticism has not been pretty. New York Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Housing and Transportation Subcommittee, has been especially outspoken. Schumer has called mortgage brokers "the underbelly of society" that "prey on people. They're rapacious. They're vultures."

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