Given the scale of the reported problems related to transfers to new servicers, and the potentially serious harm to struggling homeowners who need relief from HAMP, Treasury must be aggressive and swift in sending the message to servicers that Treasury will not tolerate harm to homeowners in HAMP from servicing transfers. HAMP is five years old, and servicers have had ample time to understand the rules and to follow them. Treasury should no longer tolerate a failure to follow HAMP rules. Treasury should report on violations publicly, and permanently withhold incentive payments from servicers that do not comply with HAMP rules on transfers. (12)
The problems in the servicer industry are structural, but it is far from clear that there are sufficient structural changes in the works to deal with them. This sad state of affairs will last far into the future unless thoughtful solutions are designed and implemented in the present. So, while it is important that SIGTARP draws attention to this problem, it is more important for other regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to take up the cause and start implementing far-reaching solutions.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a Compliance Bulletin and Policy Guidance on Mortgage Servicing Transfers (Bulletin 2014-01). Mortgage Serving Transfers have been receiving a lot of attention (also here) recently from regulators as the servicing industry is going through many changes.
The CFPB is right to focus on the impact of the transfer of mortgage servicing rights on homeowners. Many complaints made directly to regulators and seen in foreclosure cases relate to the Kafkaesque treatment that homeowners receive as their servicer point-of-contact changes from interaction to interaction.
The Bulletin indicates that servicers will have to do a fair amount of planning to ensure that consumers are not harmed by the transfer of servicing rights. In particular, the CFPB will be watching to see that servicers are (WARNING: Boring and Technical Language Alert!):
Ensuring that contracts require the transferor to provide all necessary documents and information at loan boarding.
Developing tailored transfer instructions for each deal and conducting meetings to
discuss and clarify key issues with counterparties in a timely manner; for large transfers, this could be months in advance of the transfer. Key issues may include descriptions of proprietary modifications, detailed descriptions of data fields, known issues with document indexing, and specific regulatory or settlement requirements applicable to some or all of the transferred loans.
Using specifically tailored testing protocols to evaluate the compatibility of the
transferred data with the transferee servicer’s systems and data mapping protocols.
Engaging in quality control work after the transfer of preliminary data to validate that the data on the transferee’s system matches the data submitted by the transferor.
Recognizing when the transfer cannot be implemented successfully in a single batch and implementing alternative protocols, such as splitting the transfer into several smaller transactions, to ensure that the transferee can comply with its servicing obligations for every loan transferred. (3)
As a bonus, the Bulletin provides an overview of statutes and regulations that govern the transfer of mortgage servicing.