How regulators, Republicans and big banks fought for a big increase in lucrative but risky corporate loans

April 6, 2019 | Washington Post Actions by federal regulators and Republicans in Congress over the past two years have paved the way for banks and other financial companies to issue more than $1 trillion in risky corporate loans, sparking fears that Washington and Wall Street are repeating the mistakes made before the financial crisis.

The moves undercut policies put in place by banking regulators six years ago that aimed to prevent high-risk lending from once again damaging the economy. Read more here.

Former Fannie Mae employee found guilty of making millions on shady foreclosure sales

Ordered to forfeit a property she bought with a duffle bag full of cash

February 15, 2019 | HousingWire A former Fannie Mae employee is now facing 40 years in prison after being found guilty of accepting millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for selling Fannie Mae-owned foreclosures for less than market value.

Back in January 2018, Shirene Hernandez was charged with accepting bribes for steering foreclosures to certain brokers and even allegedly buying some foreclosures herself at below market value.

And this week, Hernandez was found guilty of two wire fraud counts that involved the deprivation of honest services.

Hernandez formerly worked at Fannie Mae in California as an REO foreclosure specialist and was tasked with the sale of properties foreclosed on by Fannie Mae. Read more here.

Supreme Court debates the meaning of the term 'debt collector' in a foreclosure protections case dating back to the financial crisis

  • The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a case that dates back to the financial crisis a decade ago.

  • The justices, missing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, attempted to resolve a legal question that could have broad ramifications on hundreds of thousands of Americans who are foreclosed on without a judicial process each year.

  • A key issue in the matter is who or what can be considered a "debt collector."

January 7, 2019 | CNBC Markets are racked by turmoil, and there are signs the booming U.S. economy could slow down later this year. Yet the Supreme Court is reckoning with the lingering fallout from the financial crisis that rocked the global economy a decade ago.

The top court on Monday attempted to resolve a legal question that could have broad ramifications on hundreds of thousands of Americans who are foreclosed on without a judicial process each year. A key issue in the matter is who or what can be considered a "debt collector." Read more here.

Wells Fargo Computer Glitch Blamed as Hundreds Lose Their Homes

CBS News | December 4, 2018 Wells Fargo says a computer glitch is partly to blame for an error affecting an estimated 545 customers who lost their homes. The giant bank filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, revealing it incorrectly denied 870 loan modification requests. About 60 percent of those homeowners went into foreclosure. Read more here.

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.