Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals Rules in Bank’s Favor in Foreclosure Action Based on an eNote

On April 20, a Florida District Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a lower court’s final judgment in favor of a bank (Bank) in a foreclosure action against borrowers who signed a mortgage note electronically (eNote). Rivera v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 4D14-2273 (Fla. App. April 20, 2016). In the proceedings below, the Bank had presented a sworn certificate of authentication which articulated, among other things, the Bank’s role as servicer of the eNote for Fannie Mae, and describing the Bank’s practices and systems used for the receipt and storage of authoritative copies of electronic records and for protecting electronic records against alteration. The Bank also provided evidence from the same system records and the records of MERSCORP, Inc., as provided for in the terms of the eNote itself, showing that the eNote was last transferred to Fannie Mae and that the authoritative copy of the eNote was maintained in the Bank’s systems as Fannie Mae’s custodian. On appeal, the borrowers challenged the adequacy of the Bank’s demonstration that the eNote had properly transferred to Fannie Mae, thus challenging the Bank’s standing to enforce the eNote and foreclose the mortgage as Fannie Mae’s authorized representative.  Read more…

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GAO Report: Regulatory Oversight of Nonbank Servicers Could Be Stronger

On April 11, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled, “Nonbank Mortgage Servicers: Existing Regulatory Oversight Could Be Strengthened.” The report analyzes data on the mortgage servicing market from June 2006 through June 2015 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (collectively, the Enterprises), the Federal Reserve, and Ginnie Mae, as well as academic studies and research conducted by industry organizations, federal agencies, and others since the financial crisis. The report focuses in particular on the role of nonbank servicers in servicing privately securitized nonprime loans. According to the report, the percentage of mortgage loans serviced by nonbank servicers – which, according to market participants, tend to service more delinquent loans than banks – increased significantly from the first quarter of 2012 through the second quarter of 2015, but still account for less than a quarter of the overall mortgage servicing market. Concerns regarding the regulatory oversight of nonbank servicers are highlighted in the report, which comments on (i) the CFPB’s direct role in overseeing nonbank servicers’ compliance with federal consumer financial laws; (ii) state regulators’ various prudential and operational requirements for nonbank servicers; and (iii) Ginnie Mae and the Enterprises’ monitoring of nonbank servicer activities to manage risk exposure. According to the report, issues related to nonbank servicers’ “aggressive growth and insufficient infrastructure have resulted in harm to consumers, have exposed counterparties to operational and reputational risks and … complicated servicing transfers between institutions.” Based on the findings summarized in the report, the GAO recommends that (i) Congress consider giving FHFA the authority to examine third parties doing business with the Enterprises; and (ii) the CFPB collect additional data regarding the identity and number of nonbank servicers.

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Ninth Circuit: Fannie and Freddie Are Not Government Agents for FCA Purposes

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court of Nevada’s ruling that, for the purposes of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C § 3729(b)(2)(A)(i), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not instrumentalities or officers, employees, or agents of the federal government. U.S. ex rel. Adams v. Aurora Loan Servs., Inc., No. 14-15031 (9th Cir. Feb. 22, 2016). In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that several lenders and loan servicers (collectively, defendants) made certain false certifications to Fannie and Freddie in connection with the purchase and sale of loans. Plaintiffs argued that the False Claims Act applies to claims made to Fannie and Freddie because they are agencies or instrumentalities of the federal government under one of the two definitions of a “claim” in the Act. The Ninth Circuit held that Fannie and Freddie are not federal instrumentalities for FCA purposes of the first definition of a “claim,” notwithstanding the government’s conservatorship. Likewise, the court confirmed that because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private companies, albeit subject to the government’s conservatorship, claims made to the companies were not made to an officer, employee or agent of the federal government. The court observed that plaintiffs did not make an argument under the second definition of claim under the FCA, which defines a claim as a request or demand made upon non-government third parties under certain conditions, and therefore expressed no opinion on whether such a claim could have been brought.

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Fannie Mae Updates Servicing Guide; GSEs Update the Uniform Closing Dataset

On November 25, Fannie Mae issued Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2015-14 to reveal recent updates to the Servicing Guide. Specifically, Fannie Mae updated guidance relating to 10 areas, including but not limited to: (i) the Remittance of Property (Hazard) Insurance Loss Proceeds for Short Sales; (ii) Pledge of Servicing Rights and Transfers of Interest in Servicing Compensation; (iii) Timeline Requirements for HAMP Expanded “Pay for Performance” Incentive Notices; (iv) Early Delinquency Counseling Requirements; and (v) the removal of the Borrower Notification Sample Letter Exhibit.

In separate November 17 announcements, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (collectively the GSEs) revealed updates to the Uniform Closing Dataset, developed as part of the Uniform Mortgage Data Program to facilitate lender submission of the Closing Disclosure Form under the new TILA/RESPA regulations. The updates revise Appendix A: Closing Disclosure Mapping to the MISMO and Appendix H: UCD Delivery Specification and include: (i) newly added data points; (ii) changes to conditionality for several data points; (iii) changes/additions to the enumerated values; and (iv) updates to conditionality details.

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Fannie Mae Announces New Tools for Lenders

On October 19, Fannie Mae announced four changes: (i) the availability of trended credit data, which may allow a more thorough analysis of borrowers’ credit history; (ii) the availability of nontraditional credit history in Desktop Underwriter; (iii) a new tool, Fannie Mae Connect, which provides a self-service reporting and data analytics portal for customers and business partners; and (iv) the ability to validate a borrower’s income in Desktop Underwriter using data provided by Equifax’s The Work Number®. These changes follow Fannie Mae’s April notification regarding the integration of Collateral Underwriter, an appraisal and analysis application, with Desktop Underwriter and EarlyCheck – an integration intended to help lenders more effectively manage risk, underwrite strong loans, and build their businesses.

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