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Half of Commercial Mortgages to Be Underwater: Warren

By the end of 2010, about half of all commercial real estate mortgages will be underwater, said Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, in a wide-ranging interview on Monday.

Elizabeth Warren
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Elizabeth Warren

“They are [mostly] concentrated in the mid-sized banks,” Warren told CNBC. “We now have 2,988 banks—mostly midsized, that have these dangerous concentrations in commercial real estate lending."

As a result, the economy will face another “very serious problem” that will have to be resolved over the next three years, she said, adding that things are unlikely to return to normalcy in 2010. (See the video below for the full interview.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury on Monday pledged to sell its 7.7 billion Citigroup shares this year, a step that further reduces the government's influence on the banking giant. Warren said she is having difficulty getting clarity on Citigroup’s business plans.

“This is a cake that is still being baked,” she said of the company's plans. “[Citi's CEO] Vikram Pandit said he was going to shrink the company by 40 percent...and Citi’s numbers keep moving around so much I don’t know.”

Speaking on troubled mortgage lenders, Warren said it’s time for the government to "pull the plug" on mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac .

“I’m one of those people who never liked public-private partnership to begin with. I think what they did was use public when public was useful and private when private was useful,” she said. “And I think we’ve got to rethink that whole thing.”

“There is no implicit guarantee anymore,” she added. “I don’t care how big you are, if you make serious enough mistakes, then your business can be entirely wiped out."

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.