REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

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June 19, 2015

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

June 19, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

June 18, 2015

What Is To Be Done with Mortgage Servicers?

By David Reiss

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has found that EverBank; HSBC Bank USA, N.A.; JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.; Santander Bank, National Association; U.S. Bank National Association; and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. have not met all of the requirements of consent orders they had entered into because of deficiencies in how they dealt with foreclosure servicing. The details of these deficiencies are pretty bad.

The OCC recently issued amended consent orders with these banks. The amended orders restrict certain business activities that they conduct. The restrictions include limitations on:

  • acquisition of residential mortgage servicing or residential mortgage servicing rights (does not apply to servicing associated with new originations or refinancings by the banks or contracts for new originations by the banks);
  • new contracts for the bank to perform residential mortgage servicing for other parties;
  • outsourcing or sub-servicing of new residential mortgage servicing activities to other parties;
  • off-shoring new residential mortgage servicing activities; and
  • new appointments of senior officers responsible for residential mortgage servicing or residential mortgage servicing risk management and compliance.

HSBC had the most deficiencies of the six:  it did not make 45 of the 98 changes it had agreed to over the last few years. I was particularly interested in the portion of the consent orders that relate to MERS. The HSBC consent order states:

(1) The Bank shall implement its Revised Action Plan and ensure appropriate controls and oversight of the Bank’s activities with respect to the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (“MERS”) and compliance with MERSCORPS’s membership rules, terms, and conditions (“MERS Requirements”), include, at a minimum:

(a) processes to ensure that all mortgage assignments and endorsements with respect to mortgage loans serviced or owned by the Bank out of MERS’ name are executed only by a certifying officer authorized by MERS and approved by the Bank;

(b) processes to ensure that all other actions that may be taken by MERS certifying officers (with respect to mortgage loans serviced or owned by the Bank) are executed by a certifying officer authorized by MERS and approved by the Bank;

(c) processes to ensure that the Bank maintains up-to-date corporate resolutions from MERS for all Bank employees and third-parties who are certifying officers authorized by MERS, and up-to-date lists of MERS certifying officers;

(d) processes to ensure compliance with all MERS Requirements and with the requirements of the MERS Corporate Resolution Management System (“CRMS”);

(e) processes to ensure the accuracy and reliability of data reported to MERSCORP and MERS, including monthly system-to-system reconciliations for all MERS mandatory reporting fields, and daily capture of all rejects/warnings reports associated with registrations, transfers, and status updates on open-item aging reports. Unresolved items must be maintained on open-item aging reports and tracked until resolution. The Bank shall determine and report whether the foreclosures for loans serviced by the Bank that are currently pending in MERS’ name are accurate and how many are listed in error, and describe how and by when the data on the MERSCORP system will be corrected; and

(f) an appropriate MERS quality assurance workplan, which clearly describes all tests, test frequency, sampling methods, responsible parties, and the expected process for open- item follow-up, and includes an annual independent test of the control structure of the system-to- system reconciliation process, the reject/warning error correction process, and adherence to the Bank’s MERS Plan.

(2) The Bank shall include MERS and MERSCORP in its third-party vendor management process, which shall include a detailed analysis of potential vulnerabilities, including information security, business continuity, and vendor viability assessments.

These should all be easy enough for a financial institution to achieve as they relate to basic corporate practices (e.g., properly certifying officers); basic data management practices (e.g., system-to-system reconciliations); and basic third-party vendor practices (e.g., analyzing potential vulnerabilities of vendors).

It is hard to imagine why these well-funded and well-staffed enterprises are having such a hard time fixing their servicing operations. We often talk about governments as being too poorly run to handle reform of complex operations, but it appears that large banks face the same kinds of problems.

I am not sure what the takeaway is in terms of reform, but it does seem that homeowners need protection from companies that can’t reform themselves while they are under stringent consent orders with their primary regulator for years and years.

June 18, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

  • On June 23, at 2pm the Urban Land Institute, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Hart Research are hosting a Virtual Conversation entitled: Housing, Communities, & Messaging that Resonates: Results from Three New Polls (RSVP Here).
    • Americans’ housing and community preferences in this rapidly changing landscape,
    • where and how Millennials want to live,
    • overall satisfaction with government’s prioritization of housing affordability, and
    • the most persuasive messaging about affordable housing.
  • Corelogic’s Equity Report finds that 245,000 properties regained equity in the first quarter of 2015 – over 90% of properties have positive equity and the percentage of “underwater” mortgages decreased by over 19% year-over year.

June 18, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

June 17, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

June 16, 2015

NYC’s 421-Abyss

By David Reiss

Andrew_Cuomo_by_Pat_Arnow_cropped

New York City’s 421-a tax exemption has lapsed as of yesterday because of disagreements at the state level (NYS has a lot of control over NYC’s laws and policies, for those of you who don’t follow the topic closely). 421-a subsidizes a range of residential development from affordable to luxury. In the main, though, it subsidizes market-rate units.

This subsidy for residential development is heavily supported by the real estate industry. Many others think that the program provides an inefficient tax subsidy for residential development, particularly affordable housing development.

I fall into the latter camp. I would note, however, that NYC’s dysfunctional property tax system is highly inequitable because it taxes different types of housing units (single family, coop and condo, rental) so very differently.

With that in mind, let me turn to a policy brief from the Community Service Society, Why We Need to End New York City’s Most Expensive Housing Program. The reports key conclusions are,

At $1.07 billion a year, 421-a is the largest single housing expenditure that the city undertakes, larger than the city’s annual contribution of funds for Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York plan.

The annual cost of 421-a to the city exploded during the recent housing boom as a result of market changes, not because of any intentional policy decision to increase the amount of tax incentives for housing construction.

Half of the total 421-a expenditure is devoted to Manhattan.

The 421-a tax exemption is a general investment subsidy that has been only superficially modified to contribute to affordability goals.

The 421-a tax exemption is extremely inefficient as an affordable housing program, costing the city well over a million dollars per affordable housing unit created.

The reforms made to 421-a in 2006 and 2007 have not resulted in a significant improvement of 421-a’s efficiency as an affordable housing program.

A large share of buildings that receive 421-a and include affordable housing also receive other subsidies, such as tax-exempt bond financing. Affordable units in these buildings cannot be credited entirely to the 421-a program.

The great majority of the tax revenue forgone through 421-a is subsidizing buildings that would have been developed without the tax exemption. (3-4)

The brief argues that 421-a should be allowed to expire and be replaced “with a targeted tax credit or other new incentive that is structured to provide benefits only in proportion with a building’s contribution to the affordable housing supply.” (4)

I don’t have any real disagreement with the thrust of this brief. I would just add that the fight over 421-should be expanded to include an overhaul of the City’s property tax regime. It is unclear, of course, whether Governor Cuomo and NYS legislators have the stomach for a battle so large.

June 16, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

June 16, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments