On April 4, the DOJ announced that two mortgage servicers will pay a combined $39 million to 316 servicemembers pursuant to SCRA settlements from 2011. Those settlement agreements resolved allegations that the mortgage servicers unlawfully foreclosed upon servicemembers between 2006 and 2010. One of the servicers also is subject to the national mortgage servicing settlement, which required an audit to identify violations of SCRA’s foreclosure provisions between January 1, 2006 and April 4, 2012 and its 6 percent interest rate cap provision between January 1, 2008 and April 4, 2012. DOJ stated that the payment is separate from the national servicing settlement review and represents only the non-judicial foreclosures conducted by the bank during the relevant time period. As the national settlement audits progress, the DOJ will require the servicer to make additional payments for alleged judicial foreclosure and interest rate violations uncovered in the audit.
On May 6, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his intent to sue two of the five mortgage servicers that entered the National Mortgage Settlement with 49 state attorneys general, the U.S. Department of Justice, and certain federal agencies, alleging numerous violations of the servicing standards established by that agreement. Based on complaints received from borrowers, Mr. Schneiderman alleged that the two companies violated agreed-to loan modification timeline requirements established in the National Mortgage Settlement, including failure to provide acknowledgment of receipt of documentation from a borrower, failure to notify the borrower of missing documentation, and failure to provide a decision on the modification request within 30 days of receiving a complete application. Procedurally, under the National Mortgage Settlement, an individual party such as the New York Attorney General must provide notice of intent to bring an enforcement action for noncompliance to the Monitoring Committee, which has 21 days to determine whether to pursue action on behalf of all the parties to the National Mortgage Settlement. At the conclusion of the 21-day waiting period, if the Monitoring Committee decides not to move forward, the New York Attorney General, and other individual attorneys general, may separately pursue the action.
On April 3, a California borrower advocacy organization published the results of its survey of housing counselors, which the organization claims reveals that problems persist with the implementation of the national servicing settlement’s servicing standards, including with regard to single points of contact, dual tracking, timelines, and documentation. The report also claims that borrowers of color and other groups face additional challenges to obtaining relief under the settlement. The report recommends that (i) the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor and state attorneys general collect, analyze and report the race, ethnicity, gender, and census tract of those who have received assistance and those who have not; (ii) the OCC and the Federal Reserve Board collect, analyze and make public the same data beyond the national settlement, and include all loss mitigation activity; (iii) the CFPB promptly issue a rule to establish new HMDA categories; (iv) the Monitor impose penalties on outliers; (v) the Monitor, the CFPB, and state AGs tighten rules around “complete loan mod app”, servicing transfers, and widows; (vi) regulators prioritize in the revamped Independent Foreclosure Review process principal reduction relief, keeping people in their homes, and restoring wrongful foreclosure victims to their homes by forcing servicers to go back through their files, rescind improper foreclosure sales, and fix mistakes; (vii) authorities provide more financial support for housing counseling and legal services; and (viii) regulators ensure that servicers have sufficient capacity and training to work with homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
On February 21, Joseph Smith, Jr., the Monitor charged with overseeing the borrower relief and servicing standards aspects of the national mortgage servicing settlement, issued an implementation status report. The report states that the servicers subject to the agreement have provided nearly $46 billion of borrower relief to date and that one of the five servicers has been certified as having satisfied its borrower relief obligations under the settlement. The report notes that, effective January 1, 2013, each of the five servicers’ compliance with the servicing standards are being measured against a set of 29 metrics. The report does not provide any initial assessment of servicer compliance, but notes that the Monitor is currently reviewing each servicer’s compliance review report and, after completing a consultation process with each servicer and the Monitoring Committee, the Monitor will file a compliance report during the second quarter of 2013. The report also notes an increase in consumer complaints collected by the Monitor to date, but does not conclude whether the increase is due to greater awareness about the settlement or persistent servicing problems.