April 22, 2016
The United States Government Accountability Office has issued a report, Nonbank Mortgage Servicers: Existing Regulatory Oversight Could Be Strengthened. The GAO found that
The share of home mortgages serviced by nonbanks increased from approximately 6.8 percent in 2012 to approximately 24.2 percent in 2015 (as measured by unpaid principal balance). However, banks continued to service the remainder (about 75.8 percent). Some market participants GAO interviewed said nonbank servicers’ growth increased the capacity for servicing delinquent loans, but they also noted challenges. For example, rapid growth of some nonbank servicers did not always coincide with their use of more advanced operating systems or effective internal controls to handle their larger portfolios—an issue identified by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and others.
Nonbank servicers are generally subject to oversight by federal and state regulators and monitoring by market participants, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the enterprises). In particular, CFPB directly oversees nonbank servicers as part of its responsibility to help ensure compliance with federal laws governing mortgage lending and consumer financial protection. However, CFPB does not have a mechanism to develop a comprehensive list of nonbank servicers and, therefore, does not have a full record of entities under its purview. As a result, CFPB may not be able to comprehensively enforce compliance with consumer financial laws. In addition, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is the safety and soundness regulator of the enterprises. As such, it has indirect oversight of third parties that do business with the enterprises, including nonbanks that service loans on the enterprises’ behalf. However, in contrast to bank regulators, FHFA lacks statutory authority to examine these third parties to identify and address deficiencies that could affect the enterprises. GAO has previously determined that a regulatory system should ensure that similar risks and services are subject to consistent regulation and that a regulator should have sufficient authority to carry out its mission. Without such authority, FHFA may lack a supervisory tool to help it more effectively monitor third parties’ operations and the enterprises’ actions to manage any associated risks.
As with many GAO reports, this one provides a lot of information about a very obscure, but important, subject. In this case, the report provides a good overview of the servicing industry since the financial crisis. The report also highlights the risks to consumers and the financial industry that result from the rapid expansion of the servicing market share of nonbanks.
One of the disturbing aspects of the foreclosure crisis was the sense that the servicing sector couldn’t do a better job of assisting borrowers, even if it wanted to, because it did not have the resources to meet the challenge. Changes implemented since then, driven in large part by the CFPB, may make things better during the next such crisis. But this report does not give one the sense that they will be all that much better. The GAO report rightly calls for further work to be done to ensure that the industry is prepared to meet the challenges that are sure to come its way.| Permalink