December 23, 2014
Law360 quoted me in New York’s Ocwen Deal Sets Tough Precedent For Regulators (behind a paywall). It reads in part,
New York regulators ordered Ocwen Financial Corp. to pay $150 million in hard cash and barred the company from claiming a tax deduction on the restitution payments in a mortgage servicing settlement that could set a new standard for regulators accused of being soft on the companies they penalize.
The New York Department of Financial Services’ penalty against Ocwen, which also saw the company’s executive chairman lose his job, comes amid criticism that major penalties against Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other banks have been too lax. In a move aimed at addressing concerns over companies’ abilities to game the penalties, New York’s settlement specifically says Ocwen will not be able to use some of the techniques banks have used to lessen the blow of earlier settlements.
“They’ve tried to make a very tight settlement that demonstrates that Ocwen is suffering measurable costs for their behavior,” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
The New York Department of Financial Services announced Monday that Ocwen, the country’s fourth-largest mortgage servicer, with some $430 billion in unpaid servicing balances, would pay out $150 million in “hard money” to New York homeowners who were victim to the company’s problematic servicing operations. A third of that $150 million would go directly to people who were foreclosed upon, and the remaining $100 million would go to housing-related projects chosen by the state.
But, unlike in previous mortgage-related settlements, Ocwen will not be able to count what are known as “soft dollar” modifications of mortgages they do not own and other techniques toward its settlement total, the DFS said. Banks and other servicers have been able to count such modifications in their total settlement amounts in previous deals, including the $25 billion national mortgage settlement from 2012.
Critics say such soft-dollar remediation has allowed law enforcement agencies, regulators and banks to inflate the amount of money banks and servicers are said to be paying out while limiting the amount of money they actually pay.
“It seems like a transparent settlement,” Reiss said.
* * *
“A lot of the problems that people have had with these financial settlements are specifically identified,” Reiss said.| Permalink