On May 25, the OCC announced that it terminated a 2011 consent order related to mortgage servicing, as well as 2013 and 2015 amended orders, against a San Francisco-based bank after determining that it now complies with the orders. For previous violations of the original 2011 order, the OCC assessed a $70 million civil money penalty against the bank. Specifically, the OCC alleges that the bank (i) failed to correct identified deficiencies in the original and amended orders in a timely fashion, thus violating the original order from October 1, 2014 through August 31, 2015; (ii) filed payment change notices in bankruptcy courts that did not comply with bankruptcy rules and safe and sound banking practices between December 1, 2011 and March 31, 2015; and (iii) made escrow calculations that led to incorrect loan modification denials that constituted unsafe or unsound banking practices between March 2013 and October 2014. The bank will pay the $70 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury. The termination of the orders ends business restrictions that had been mandated in June 2015.
On June 22, the CFPB released its eleventh issue of Supervisory Highlights specifically to address recent supervisory examination observations of the mortgage servicing industry. According to the report, mortgage servicers continue to face compliance challenges, particularly in the areas of loss mitigation and servicing transfers. The report attributes compliance weaknesses to outdated and deficient servicing technology, as well as the lack of proper training, testing, and auditing of technology-driven processes. Notable findings outlined in the report include the following: (i) multiple violations related to servicing rules that require loss mitigation acknowledgment notices, observing deficiencies with timeliness and content of acknowledgement notices; (ii) violations regarding servicer loss mitigation offer letters and other related communications, including unreasonable delay in sending letters; (iii) failure to state the correct reason(s) in letters to borrowers for denying a trial or permanent loan modification option; (iv) failure to implement effective servicing policies, procedures, and requirements; and (v) heightened risks to consumers when transferring loans during the loss mitigation process. Although the report focuses largely on mortgage servicers’ continued violations, it acknowledged that certain servicers have significantly improved over the past several years by, in part, “enhancing and monitoring their servicing platforms, staff training, coding accuracy, auditing, and allowing for great flexibility in operations.”
In addition to outlining Supervision’s examination observations of the mortgage servicing industry, the report also notes that the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual was recently updated to reflect regulatory changes, technical corrections, and updated examination priorities in the mortgage servicing chapter.
The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the Multi-State Mortgage Committee (MMC) issued a report to state regulators regarding its 2015 review of the supervisory structure around examination and risk assessment of non-bank mortgage loan servicers. Notable servicing examination findings outlined in the report include: (i) violations and deficiencies related to loan transfer activity, noting that a “significant portion of servicing examination findings are tied to the mortgage servicing requirements implemented into the [RESPA] and [TILA] in January of 2014”; (ii) ineffective oversight of sub-servicer activity and insufficient third party vendor management; and (iii) ineffective examination management procedures on the part of mortgage servicers, leading to delayed examination processes, as well as impeded regulatory oversight. The report further outlines origination examination findings, emphasizing RESPA violations related to Mortgage Servicing Agreements (MSAs) which typically include payments for promotional advertising services performed on behalf of the mortgage company. Read more…
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.
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.