Thousands Line Up for Zero-Down-Payment, Subprime Mortgages

October 12, 2018 | CNBC Magdalene Altidor lost her home to foreclosure during the subprime mortgage crisis, but this week she was first in line at a four-day event in Miami where borrowers with poor credit were offered no-down payment, low interest rate loans.

"I left home, it was about 4am," she laughed. "I'm ready to purchase a home."

The event is one of several being held in cities across America this year, run by the non-profit, Boston-based brokerage, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, or NACA.

"It's a national disgrace about the low amount of homeownership, mortgages for low and moderate income people and for minority home buyers," said Bruce Marks, CEO of NACA. "In the loans that we've originated in the past 6 years, zero foreclosures." Read more here.

Attorney general sues over mortgage scam costing 21 Pennsylvania homeowners $280,000

July 27, 2018 | The Morning Call         Five Pennsylvania mortgage foreclosure companies face a lawsuit from the state attorney general’s office over a yearslong mortgage scam that allegedly cost 21 homeowners more than $280,000.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the lawsuit Thursday, alleging the companies deceived the complainants into signing mortgage modification contracts, many with hefty upfront payments, and never delivered promised services. Some customers, Shapiro said, lost their homes to foreclosure.  Read more here.

America’s Mortgage Market Is Still Broken

Ten years after the 2008 crisis, crucial flaws need fixing.

May 14, 2018 | Bloomberg           Regulators have done a lot to reform the financial system since the 2008 crisis, but they still haven’t fixed the market where the trouble started: U.S. mortgages. It’s an omission they need to put right before the next crisis hits.

Looking back, it’s easy to see what made U.S. housing finance so vulnerable. Loosely regulated companies, financed with flighty short-term debt, did much of the riskiest lending. Loan-servicing companies, which processed payments and managed relations with borrowers, lacked the incentives and resources needed to handle delinquencies. Private-label mortgages (which aren’t guaranteed by the government) were packaged into securities with extremely poor mechanisms for deciding who — investors, packagers or lenders — would take responsibility for bad or fraudulent loans.  Read more here.

 

RBS Clears Path to Pay Dividends After $4.9 Billion DOJ Deal

May 10, 2018 | Bloomberg     Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc cleared one of the last barriers keeping the U.K. from reducing its stake in the lender and resuming dividends after it reached a tentative deal to pay $4.9 billion to resolve a U.S. mortgage probe.

Top executives said the U.K.’s biggest government-owned bank will begin discussions with British regulators about restarting dividends after a decade.

“The investment case for this bank is much clearer,” RBS Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan said on a call with reporters on Thursday. This is “a milestone moment to restore capital distribution,” he said.

A preliminary settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice makes it easier for the U.K. government to attract buyers for its approximate 70 percent stake after bailing out RBS during the financial crisis. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond welcomed the agreement in principle. “It marks another significant milestone in RBS’s work to resolve its legacy issues, and will help pave the way to a sale of taxpayer-owned shares,” he said in a statement.  Read more here

Wells Fargo Plans to Refund Some Mortgage Customers

April 13, 2018 | USA Today        Wells Fargo outlined plans Wednesday to refund customers who were charged extra fees to extend rate locks on mortgages because of delays that were caused by the bank, not the customers.

The San Francisco-based bank, which is still working to repair its reputation following last year's fake account scandal, said it will refund customers who paid fees to extend interest rate locks between Sept. 16, 2013, through Feb. 28, 2017 but "who believe they shouldn't have paid those fees."

In a rate lock, the lender guarantees that it will provide the borrower with a mortgage at a specific rate, say 4%, for a specific time period, such as 60 days. There is often a charge to extend the rate-lock period.

In the Wells Fargo case, borrowers were hit with additional fees for allegedly getting their loan paperwork in late. But the bank, after a review of its rate-lock fee policies, acknowledged that the delays in some cases were caused on its end.

In a statement, the bank said its rate-lock extension policy put in place in September 2013 was "at times, not consistently applied, resulting in some borrowers being charged fees in cases where the company was primarily responsible for the delays that made the extensions necessary."

Effective March 1, 2017, Wells Fargo changed how the company manages the mortgage rate-lock extension process.

The company said it would reach out to customers and start issuing refunds in the final months of this year.

While roughly $98 million in rate-lock fees were assessed to about 110,000 loan applicants in the nearly two-and-a-half-year period in question, the company believes a "substantial number" of those fees were "appropriately charged."

As a result, Wells Fargo said "the amount ultimately refunded likely will be lower, as not all of the fees assessed were actually paid and some fees already have been refunded."

The move was the latest attempt by the bank to rebuild trust with customers, its CEO Tim Sloan said in a statement.

"We want to serve our customers as they would expect to be served, and are initiating these refunds as part of our ongoing efforts to rebuild trust," Sloan said.

Big Bank Custody Fight

March 8, 2018  |  WSJ         The Senate is debating a bill that would relax Dodd-Frank’s chokehold on small banks, but a couple of provisions that ease capital and liquidity standards for the giants will make the financial system more vulnerable in a panic.

Tucked into Banking Chairman Mike Crapo’s legislation is a directive to federal agencies to amend the “supplementary leverage ratio” for custodial banks by excluding deposits at a central bank. Custodial banks secure assets for clients such as large institutional investors and fund managers.

At first glance, this provision would appear to apply only to Boston-based State Street , Chicago’s Northern Trust and Bank of New York Mellon . But Citigroup and J.P. Morgan also offer custodial services and are trying to join the party. You can bet others will want in too. “As Congress has sought to make a common sense change to the way capital rules treat custody assets, we have asked that they apply that change to all custody banks to maintain a level playing field in this important business,” a Citi spokesman said last week.  Read more here.

Royal Bank of Scotland Reaches $500 Million Settlement with New York Over Mortgage Securities

March 6, 2018  |  CNBC         Royal Bank of Scotland Group has reached a $500 million settlement with New York state to resolve claims over its sale of risky residential mortgage-backed securities that contributed to the 2008 global financial crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said the accord includes a $100 million cash payment to the state, plus $400 million of consumer relief for homeowners and communities.

Schneiderman said RBS admitted to having sold investors residential mortgage-backed securities that did not meet underwriting guidelines, contrary to its representations, and did not comply with applicable laws and regulations.  Link to article here.

U.S. Bank Cited by Federal Authorities for Lapses on Money Laundering

February 15, 2018 | The New York Times       U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank by assets in the United States, was charged by the federal authorities on Thursday with failing to guard against illegal activity and, in at least one instance, even abetting it.

The Justice Department accused U.S. Bank, which is based in Minneapolis, of severely neglecting anti-money laundering rules, helping a payday lender operate an illegal business and lying to a regulator about its plans for tracking potential criminal activity by bank customers.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan reached an agreement with U.S. Bank to defer prosecution as long as the bank could show it had improved its monitoring of customer transactions. To settle the Justice Department charges and cases brought by other regulators, the bank agreed to pay various fines and penalties totaling $613 million.  Read more here.

PHH Reaches Nationwide Settlement Over Crisis-Era Mortgage Servicing

PHH will pay $45 million in settlement with 49 states

January 3, 2018 | HousingWire         PHH Corp. will pay $45 million as part of a nationwide settlement over mortgage servicing and foreclosure issues during the housing crisis, a group of nearly every state attorney general announced Wednesday.

The settlement requires PHH to adopt new servicing standards and provide monetary relief to affected borrowers, though the company counters it already currently uses said standards.

The settlement covers the company’s mortgage servicing practices, including foreclosure activities, between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2012.

The settlement is between PHH and the Multi-State Mortgage Committee, including more than 45 state mortgage regulators, along with 49 state attorneys general, and the District of Columbia.

Every state took part in the settlement, with the exception of New Hampshire. It is unknown at this time why New Hampshire is not a party in the settlement. HousingWire contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General, and this article will be updated should the AG respond.

According to the complaint filed by the state attorneys general, PHH “threatened foreclosure and conveyed conflicting messages to certain borrowers engaged in loss mitigation.”  Read more here.

Mortgage Industry Panics Over Obscure Provision in Senate Tax Bill

November 29, 2017 | Bloomberg            The mortgage industry is panicking over a provision in the Senate tax bill that some analysts and trade groups say may drive small lenders out of the business.

The Mortgage Bankers Association and other bank and mortgage trade groups scrambled over Thanksgiving weekend after staff members discovered a provision in the bill that would change the time at which lenders pay taxes on the streams of income they earn from managing borrowers’ mortgages.

That change could cost banks tens of billions of dollars as the value of those income streams drops. The reduction would be enough to drive smaller lenders and non-bank lenders to either exit the mortgage market altogether or restructure their businesses, said MBA president David Stevens.

“It’s a fire drill,” Stevens said. “We’re scrambling to get people on phone calls. It would cause a significant disruption in the industry.”

It’s unclear whether Senate tax writers intentionally targeted lenders -- or whether they intend to leave the provision in place. The episode may reflect the unusual speed with which the Senate is trying to approve legislation that was introduced in written form only nine days ago. Senate leaders plan to vote on the bill Thursday or Friday.

“As Congress continues to debate the Senate’s tax reform plan that was reported out of the Finance Committee, Chairman Hatch will work with members to make the appropriate policy decisions to help deliver a comprehensive tax overhaul that will grow the economy, boost job creation, and increase paychecks for the American people,” Julia Lawless, a Senate Finance Committee spokeswoman, said in an email.

For lenders, the issue surrounds a central way they make money. When a borrower takes out a loan, lenders often sell that loan to government-backed companies, while keeping the right to collect borrower payments and manage the loan. Those so-called mortgage servicing rights are a valuable asset, and lenders often sell them to each other or to outside investors such as hedge funds when they want cash.  Read more here.